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Revised Edition 

Essays in' 


Sociological Theory 



Copyright 1954 and 1949 by The Free Press 

Printed in the United States of America 

Designed by Sidney Solomori 


Introduction \ 9 

I. The Role of Ideas in Social Action (1938) 19 

/II) The Professions and Social Sti^icture (1939)^ 34 

III. The Motivation of Economic Activities (1940) 50 

IV. An Analytical Approach to the Theory of Social Strati- 

fication (1940) C?^ 

V. Age and Sex in the Social Structure of the United 

States (1942) 89 

VI. Democracy and Social Structure in Pre-Nazi Germany 

(1942) 104 

VII. Some Sociological Aspects of the Fascist Movements 

(1942) 124 

VIII. Propaganda and Social Control (1942) 142 

IX. The Kinship System of the Contemporary United States 

(1943) 177 

X. The Theoretical Development of the Sociology of Re- 

ligion (1944) 197 

XL The Present Position and Prospects of Systematic 

Theory in Sociology (1945) 212 

XII. The Problem of Controlled Institutional Change 

(1945) 238 

XIII. Population and the Social Structure of Japan ( 1946 ) 275 

XIV. Certain Primary Sources and Patterns of Aggression in 

the Social Structure of the Western World (1947) 298 

XV. Social Classes and Class Conflict in the Light of Recent 

Sociological Theory (1949) 323 

XVI. Psychoanalysis and the Social Structure (1950) 336 

XVII. The Prospects of Sociological Theory (1950) 348 

XVIII. A Sociologist Looks at the Legal Profession ( 1952 ) 370 

XIX. A Revised Analytical Approach to the Theory of Social 

Sti-atification (1953) 386 

Bibliography of Talcott Parsons 440 

Index 446 



Revised Edition 


THE FIRST EDITION of this volume of Essays appeared in 1949. In the 
Introduction written at that time it seemed appropriate to say that 
it brought together work done by the author since the pubhcation 
of his book. The Structure of Social Action in 1937. In preparing a 
new edition, the Free Press and the author thought in terms of work 
which hes between the aforementioned book and three new pub- 
lications in the field of general theory which document a new phase 
in the development of the author's theoretical thinking. These are 
the monograph. Values, Motives and Systems of Action, written in 
collaboration with Edward A. Shils and published in the volume 
Toward a General Theory of Action (Harvard University Press, 
1951) of which the two of us were co-editors; The Social System 
(Free Press, 1951); and the collection entitled Working Papers in 
the Theory of Action (Free Press, 1953), written in collaboration 
with Robert F. Bales and Edward A. Shils. 

When the Free Press was considering the present new edition of 
the Essays, some of the papers printed in the Working Papers were 
either written or in process. The question arose as to whether any 
of these should be included in a new edition of the Essays, but at 
the time it seemed advisable to reserve all theoretical work done 
since the completion of The Social System for the separate publi- 
cation of Working Papers and thus to confine the new edition of these 
Essays to work done before the new theoretical phase was under 
way. The present edition therefore was planned to end with the 
essay on "The Prospects of Sociological Theory," the author's presi- 
dential address before the American Sociological Society at its 1949 
meeting, which was written in the midst of the work leading to 
Toward A General Theory of Action and points up the transition 
between these phases of intellectual development. 

Since the Working Papers went to press, however, two other 
papers have been written which it has seemed advisable to include 
in the present collection. Both are to be published elsewhere but 
would through these channels have come to the attention of only 
rather restricted groups. Since they belong in the broad field of 
"application" of sociological theory and stand in the line of scientific 
development documented by these essays, they seemed to belong 
in the collection. 


Within this general poHcy, several new items have thus been 
included in this new edition which were not part of the original 
one, and in order not to allow the volume to grow too large, three 
items in the earlier edition have been omitted. 

The new additions fall into three classes. First, there are three 
papers which had been written before the publication of the first 
edition of these essays, but for reasons partly of space, and partly 
of balance, were not included in the volume at that time. These all 
fall in the "applied" category of essays in theory, dealing with large 
problems of the analysis and interpretation of institutional struc- 
tures of the modern world, and dynamic processes of social change 
in it. The dominant focus of all three is on the political situation, a 
focus which is at least partly attributable to the urgencies of the 

These three papers are, in order of their writing and placing in 
the new volume: (1) Chapter VI, "Democracy and Social Structure 
in Pre-Nazi Germany." This was written for and published in the 
first issue of the then new Journal of Legal and Political Sociology 
in 1942. It reflected the author's long-standing interest in problems 
of German society and forms a companion piece to the later paper 
on "Controlled Institutional Change." (2) Chapter VII, "Some 
Sociological Aspects of the Fascist Movements." This was written 
as the presidential address to the Eastern Sociological Society at 
its 1942 meeting, and was published in Social Forces, December, 
1942. It attempts to generalize some of the insights developed in 
relation to Germany about the social background of the fascist 
movement, and to state them in terms of their relations to certain 
general features of modem Western society. (3) Chapter XIII, 
"The Population and Social Structure of Japan." This was published 
in the collaborative volume Japans Prospect (D. G. Haring, Ed., 
Harvard University Press, 1946) by members of the faculty of the 
Harvard School for Overseas Administration. It is an attempt to 
extend to an Oriental society the same order of structural and 
dynamic analysis which had previously been developed in connec- 
tion with Western countries. 

The next three additions are papers written since the appearance 
of the first edition of these essays but prior to the general theoretical 
work cited above. These are ( 1 ) Chapter XV, "Social Classes and 
Class Conflict in the Light of Recent Sociological Theory." This was 
read at a meeting of the American Economic Association in De- 


cember, 1948, which was concerned with assessment of the scientific 
influence of Marx in economics and sociology on the occasion of 
the hundredth anniversary of the Communist Manifesto. It was 
pubHshed in Papers and Proceedings of the American Economic 
Review, May, 1949. It is an attempt to bring to bear the main lines 
of modem sociological analysis on the problems of class conflict as 
stated in Marxist theory. (2) Chapter XVI, "Psychoanalysis and 
the Social Structure." This paper was read at a meeting of the 
American Psychoanalytic Association in May, 1948, and published 
in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, July 1950. It is included because 
it states in rather general terms the author's approach to the rela- 
tions between psychoanalysis and sociology. This theme has become 
a most important one in subsequent work. ( 3 ) The last addition in 
this group is the one already mentioned, Chapter XVII, "The Pros- 
pects of Sociological Theory," which points the way to the phase of 
theoretical work which was just beginning at the time it was 

Finally, come the last two papers mentioned above which were 
written after those appearing in the Working Papers. The first of 
these. Chapter XVIII, is "A Sociologist Looks at the Legal Pro- 
fession." This paper was read at the 50th Anniversary Symposium 
of the University of Chicago Law School in December, 1952. It is 
concerned with the similarities and differences between the place 
and functions of the legal profession in modern society and the 
medical profession which had been the object of considerable 
earlier study. It has proved possible in this paper to draw a closer 
analogy between the two professions than had at first seemed pos- 
sible. The final paper added is "A Revised Analytical Approach to 
the Theory of Social Stratification." This paper was written for the 
Reader in Social Stratification edited by Bendix and Lipset. It at- 
tempts to bring the analysis of Chapter IV (written in 1940) up to 
date as a spelling out of general sociological theory in an important 
field of its application. 

To make room for these additions, three chapters of the first 
edition of these essays have been omitted from the new one. The 
first of these is Chapter V, there entitled simply "Max Weber." This 
was by far the longest chapter in the book, and is omitted largely 
because it is readily available elsewhere in book form, not only in 
the first edition of these essays, but in its original place of publi- 
cation as the Introduction to the translation of Weber's Theory of 


Socml and Economic Organization (Oxford University Press, 1947). 
The second omission is Chapter I of the first edition, "The Position 
of Sociological Theory." A good deal of its content is repeated 
elsewhere, and it was felt that it was better to emphasize empirical 
applications of theory in the new edition. Finally, Chapter III, "A 
Selection from "Toward A Common Language for the Area of Social 
Science " has also been omitted. This is largely because the classi- 
fication set forth there is now completely obsolete, in the light of 
the much more elaborate attempt at classification of institutional 
patterns developed in Chapters III and IV of The Social System. 
The main interest of the early version is as a first stage of the scheme 
which has been much more fully developed in this later publication. 

Besides the above changes in content, the new edition of these 
Essays also differs in arrangement from the old. The balance be- 
tween "pure" and "applied" theory has been altered in favor of the 
latter sufficiently to make a separate section of papers with the 
former emphasis less appropriate than before. Hence it has been 
decided to reprint the papers in the order of their original publi- 
cation without regard to subject-matter. This results in a few cases 
in separating papers which belong closely together, as for example 
that on Age and Sex and that on the American kinship system. But 
perhaps this disadvantage is compensated for by giving the reader 
a better opportunity to follow consecutively the process of devel- 
opment of theoretical thinking. 

Karl Mannheim once stated that one of the principal differences 
between European and American sociology lay in the concern of 
the Europeans, especially on the Continent, with the diagnosis of 
the larger social-political problems of their time, a trait of sociology 
which connected it with the philosophy of history, while American 
sociology had been much more concerned with specific and limited 
empirical studies of phases of our own contemporary society. In 
this respect the empirical preoccupations of most of these essays 
clearly bear the imprint of the author's European training. But in 
this empirical respect, as well as in respect to type of theory as 
such, it seems legitimate to think of a process of convergence rather 
than simply of two separate traditions of thought, and above all I 
should like to argue that this interest in the larger social-political 
problems does not mean the assimilation of sociology to the phi- 
losophy of history, as Alfred Weber above all has advocated and 
carried it out. The interest in these broader problems in no way 


involves the minimization or abandonment of the interest in acquir- 
ing for sociology the status of an empirical science with rigorous 
operational procedures and standards of validation. 

In the recent theoretical work referred to above, my colleagues 
and I have strongly emphasized the fact that the theory of action, 
including its sociological branch, is applicable over a microscopic- 
macroscopic range. Sociologically speaking this reaches all the way 
from the analysis of the processes of interaction in temporary small 
groups to the processes in the most complex societies considered as 
total social systems. In this methodological situation, the study of 
the large-scale society, and the broad institutional structure of 
societies, of which Max Weber was the great master, has an exceed- 
ingly important place in the development of the relations between 
theory and empirical work. 

If we are correct in our views about the range of applicability, 
there is no intrinsic reason why one rather than another "level" of 
the use of a conceptual scheme has any priority. It is a question of 
interest and of conceptions of the most strategic way to proceed in 
the furthering of sociological knowledge. In the light of this fact 
I should hke to argue that broad comparative treatment of total 
social systems and of large-scale societies has had, in the light of 
the general state of sociological science in the last two generations, 
an important special place. 

This is essentially because of the nature of the problems we 
sociologists have faced in making our conceptual schemes opera- 
tionally testable according to the canons of the best scientific 
methods. The crux of the problem has been how to establish a fit 
between categories of data and the central concepts of generalized 
theoretical analysis. Broadly speaking we are only now beginning 
to get the kind of relation which combines empirical precision and 
high theoretical generality of implication in the same statements of 
fact. For the most part we have had to rest content with empirical 
statements which, as in the case for example of the net reproduc- 
tion rate or the correlation between religious affiliation and voting 
behavior, might be extremely precise, but in theoretical terms must 
be interpreted to state complex resultants of the operation of a con- 
siderable and generally unknown number of variables of general 
significance to our science. But in physical science such concepts as 
temperature, velocity, momentum are both precisely determinable 
and are either the values of fundamental variables as such are very 


simple resultants. The great problem of the sciences of action in 
working toward empirical precision has been to break through this 
impasse of the lack of fit, and to do so in a situation where the fun- 
damental variables it was desired to measure, were unknown. 
Common sense in this situation is likely to be as deceptive in our 
field as it is in physics. For example to common sense, density is 
"obviously" a fundamental property of physical objects; what could 
be more fundamental than the difference between a lead shot and 
a feather? But nevertheless density is, in the fundamental theory of 
mechanics, not treated as a fundamental variable, but as a resultant. 
There is no question but that many of the variables now thought 
to be most fundamental in the social sciences will turn out to be 
in the same category as density, not as mass or velocity. They are, 
that is to say, empirically crucial for many problems, but theoreti- 
cally derivative, or (secondary). 

In the light of very recent experience it seems that the very 
detailed and meticulous observation of interaction processes in 
small groups offered an opportunity to make the kinds of theoretical 
discriminations of empirically observable variables of which we 
are speaking, but in spite of the fact that such writers as Mead and 
Cooley have given us much insight about the problems of intimate 
interaction, until the present generation no one has had the imagi- 
nation to develop a solid program of detailed research in this field. 
At the same time most of the data available on "intermediate" levels, 
especially before the development, which is itself recent, of sam- 
pling techniques, have been of the character of complex resultants 
illustrated by the net reproduction rate. In such a situation, increase 
in operational precision, by itself would not advance us toward our 
goal of "marrying" theory and operational procedures in the fruit- 
ful manner of the physical sciences. 

It is in this connection that the macroscopic study of the large- 
scale society has acquired a certain special importance. The essential 
point is that the degree of precision which is theoretically significant 
is relative, relative that is to the theoretical discriminations which it 
is important to make. 

Looking back, it can be seen that Toennies' famous discrimi- 
nation of Gemeinschaft and Gesellscfmft hit upon a quite funda- 
mental line of distinction, which was not, to be sure, a distinction 
between two major variables in the usual sense, but which, if fur- 
ther analyzed, could lead to the definition of such variables as it 


has in fact, along with other sources, done. Toennies' empirical 
work was, however, highly impressionistic and not accompanied 
with at all precise conceptual analysis, to say nothing of research 

A much higher level, which represents the best of what is meant 
here by broad comparative study is found in two justly famous 
programs of research of the last generation, that of Max Weber in 
the comparative sociology of religion, and of Durkheim, in the field 
of rates of suicide. Weber essentially established certain broad dif- 
ferentiations of patterns of value-orientation, as we would now 
term them. He showed how these were related to the existential 
belief systems of the religious traditions in which they developed, 
and that these orientation patterns "corresponded" to the broad lines 
of differentiation of the social structures of the societies in which 
they had become institutionalized. This was the first major develop- 
ment in modern sociology in the systematic discrimination of major 
types of value system in terms directly articulated with the com- 
parative analysis of social stiuctures, which went well beyond the 
impressionistic level of a Toennies. 

Weber was well trained in the techniques of historical research 
of his day, and was meticulously careful in his statements of fact. 
But he covered a range which would, and did, horrify the type of 
historian who believes that only establishment of detailed fact has 
scientific value. Moreover he necessarily ventured into a number of 
fields, such as Sinology and Indology, where in the nature of the 
case he could not himself be a competent expert in the detailed 
sense. But in exchange for this, using what was, from the point of 
view of the tradition of meticulous empirical scholarship a dubious 
procedure, he succeeded, as no one had done before him, in estab- 
lishing broad lines of empirical differentiation which could be 
directly interpreted in terms of the theoretical scheme with which 
he had been working. He indeed used theoretical categories of the 
order of density, as for example "traditionalism," and much in his 
theoretical scheme has proved to need revision in the light of later 
developments. But by the use of the comparative method on the 
broadest scale, Weber, was carrying on empirical research which 
came closer to logic of the crucial experiment, than was the case 
for the work of almost any of the "empirical" sociologists whose 
coverage of the supposedly important facts of an empirical field was 
often much more "adequate" than his. The essential point is that the 


very breadth of the range Weber covered gave him, since he had a 
fruitful conceptual scheme, the opportunity to select out what for 
him were the theoretically crucial considerations of fact. Many 
details might remain unclear, but on the level of the research 
techniques he used, the broad contrasts, e.g. as between Chinese 
traditionalistic particularism and Western universalistic "rational- 
ism," were unmistakable; and these contrasts have proved to be 
theoretically crucial. 

Durkheim's work on suicide was in a sense intermediate between 
the broad comparative method and what might be called the "me- 
ticulous" ideal of operational procedure. He had statistical data of 
a sort and though his methods were, from the point of view of 
modem statistics, exceedingly crude, he showed considerable inge- 
nuity in working out the most significant combinations of the data. 
But still the focus was the comparative method, the distinctions of 
rates of suicide by religious groups which he showed held up inter- 
nationally; the differences between rates in armed forces and in the 
civil populations of the same countries, the variations of rates as a 
function of the business cycle. But Durkheim, as one of the great 
theorists of the history of sociology, was able to use these broad 
comparative differences to sharpen and refine his theoretical 
scheme. It was, crude as it was, empirical validation of highly gen- 
eralized theory, and marked from that point of view a most impor- 
tant step in the development of the science. 

This is the methodological context in which the empirical essays 
in this volume can claim to be contributions to empirical sociology 
and to the development of theory at the same time. In not a single 
case are they products of what, by current standards, would be 
called refined research technique; in this sense they can hardly 
claim to be "operational." They are, however, called essays in the 
"application" of theory in that in every case they represent attempts 
to bring to bear theoretical considerations in interpreting the various 
broad phenomena with which they are concerned. It matters pro- 
foundly to theory whether the theoretically expected relationships 
in fact hold up empirically. With respect to such matters as the dis- 
tinctive character of the American middle-class urban kinship sys- 
tem, as contrasted for instance with that of classical China or of 
Japan, or to the major institutional pattern of medical practice in 
Western society as contrasted with that normal in "business" it can 
be claimed that they do stand up. Then however impressionistically 


these differences have been established, theory enables us to draw 
conclusions from them. We conclude for example that there is a 
relation between the specific structure of the American kinship 
system and the phenomena of our "y^u^^^* culture," which have so 
often been attributed to the biological maturation process, but which 
are conspicuously absent in classical China. Or, the differences 
between the institutional pattern of medical practice and that of 
business can be shown to have a fundamental bearing on the psy- 
chotherapeutic component of the functions of medical practice. 

The essential point of this discussion is that the gap between the 
empirical needs of the type of theory with which the author has 
been concerned, in the period represented by most of these essays, 
and the possibilities of most of the refined empirical operational 
techniques practiced in the same period has been such, that it is at 
least questionable whether confining attention to empirical prob- 
lems to which the latter were best adapted would have served the 
empirical interests of theoretical development as well as the type of 
operationally crude empirical generalization represented in this 
volume has done. The gain in rehability and precision which such 
techniques could yield might well have been balanced by an exor- 
bitant cost in the loss of freedom to investigate the empirical prob- 
lems which seemed most crucial to the validation of the strategic 
theoretical ideas. In that case the distinctive contribution flowing 
from some kind of empirical testing of the kind of theoretical ideas 
in question might have been greatly diminished in favor of much 
better empirical work which was either in general less significant 
to theory, or at any rate was significant to a different order of theory. 

I have wished to present this argument to the reader of these 
essays because the scientific functions of this order of crude empi- 
rical observation and generalization often tend to be overlooked 
when compared to the much greater sophistication and in one sense 
power of "real research." But in no sense do I wish to argue that 
this is an ideal or permanent state. Though it may very well prove 
to have a permanent place in our repertoire of procedures, it has 
its functions above all in the stage in which theory is beginning to 
"try its wings," when so7ne kind of empirical guide-posts are abso- 
lutely essential. But when theory has developed far enough, its mar- 
riage with the sophisticated level of research technique can and 
must take place. We are, in my opinion, just beginning to enter the 
threshold of that era, with an increasing number of attempts to 


utilize more general theory in direct technical research, and con- 
versely, to utilize technical research results for technical theoretical 

It is a commonplace that it is not possible to do certain kinds of 
things in the field of empirical validation and generalization with- 
out the development of the techniques to do them. But in some 
quarters there seems still to be a prevalent idea that theory, if it 
is in any sense good, cannot help making the connection if the 
techniques are available. Nothing could be further from the truth. 
Speaking from a good deal of experience in connection with the 
attempt to act as a "go-between" in arranging this marriage of 
theory and research technique, I can say that the amount of spe- 
cifically theoretical work which is necessary is prodigious. The the- 
oretical problems must be stated in a form which meets the 
operational requirements of the available techniques and at the same 
time permits high generality of reasoning about the implications of 
findings. For two parties to enter into a successful marriage both 
must have reached a certain level of maturity. The marriage, which 
we can expect soon to begin to produce offspring far surpassing 
the qualities of their parents, is only now becoming possible and 
only because the development of both partners has gone through 
a long series of preceding stages. This "father" of the new gener- 
ation, if the role-designation for the theoretical partner may be 
permitted, had to go through his stages of playing cops and robbers 
and Indians, before he was ready to do a man's job. 

*The paper of Merton and Kit "Contributions to the Theory of Reference 
Group Behavior" is one of the best examples. Cf. Continuities in Social Re- 
search, Merton and Lazarsfeld, eds., The Free Press; 1950. 

The Role of Ideas 
in Social Action 

THE SUBJECT of this paper has given rise to much controversy which 
has, on the whole, turned out to be strikingly inconclusive. It may 
be suggested that, in part at least, this is a result of two features of 
the discussion. On the one hand, sides have tended to be taken on 
the problem in too general terms. Ideas in general have been held 
either to have or not to have an important role in the determina- 
tion of action. As opposed to this tendency, I shall attempt here 
to break the problem down into different parts, each of which 
fits differently into the analytical theory of action. 

On the other hand, tlie discussion has, for the taste of the pres- 
ent writer, been altogetlier too closely linked to philosophical 
problems and has seldom been brought fairly into the forum of 
factual observation and theoretical analysis on the empirical level. 
This paper is to be regarded as a theoretical introduction to 
attempts of the latter sort. 

I am far from believing that social or any other science can live 
in a kind of philosophical vacuum, completely ignoring all philo- 
sophical problems, but even though, as I have stated elsewhere,^ 
scientific and philosophical problems are closely interdependent, 
they are nevertheless at the same time independent and can be 
treated in relative abstraction from each other. Above all, from 
the fact that this paper will maintain that ideas do play an impor- 
tant part in the determination of action, it is not to be inferred 
that its author is committed to some kind of idealistic metaphysics 
of the sort from which it has so often been inferred that ideas must 
arise through some process of "immaculate conception" unsullied 
by social and economic forces or that they influence action by 
some automatic and mysterious process of self-realization or 
"emanation" without relation to the other elements of the social 

1 The Structure of Social Action, 20 ff, New York, 1937. 


The paper, then, will be devoted to the statement of a theo- 
retical framework for the analysis of the role of ideas on an 
empirical, scientific basis. Without apologies, I shall start with an 
explicit definition of my subject matter. Ideas, for the purposes of 
this discussion, are "concepts and propositions, capable of intel- 
ligible- interpretation in relation to human interests, values and 
experience." So far as, qua ideas, they constitute systems, the rela- 
tions between these concepts and propositions are capable of being 
tested in terms of a certain type of norm, that of logic. 

The definition just given is so stated that it can serve as the 
definition of a variable in a system of interdependent variables. 
That is, it is a combination of logical universals to which many 
different particulars, the values of the variable, may be fitted. Since 
the present concern is wholly scientific, the sole important ques- 
tions to be asked are three: 1. Do differences which are accurately 
ascertainable obtain between the specific content of the ideas held 
by different individuals or groups in social systems at different 
times? 2. Is it possible to establish important relations between 
these differences and other observable aspects of, or events within, 
the same social systems? 3. Are these relations such that the ideas 
cannot be treated as a dependent variable, that is, their specific 
content deduced from knowledge of the values of one or more 
other observable variables in the same system? If all three of these 
questions can be answered in the affirmative, it may be claimed 
that ideas play an important role in the determination of social 
action in the only sense in which such a claim has meaning in 
science. Ideas would be an essential variable in a system of theory 
which can be demonstrated to "work," to make intelligible a 
complex body of phenomena. Whether in an ultimate, ontological 
sense these ideas are real, or only manifestations of some deeper 
metaphysical reality is a question outside the scope of this paper. 

Ideas obviously could not be treated as a variable in systems 
of social action unless their specific content varied from case to 
case. But besides the variations of specific content from case to 
case, it may be possible, as has been suggested, to divide tliem into 
certain broad classes which differ appreciably from one another 
in their relations to action. How these classes shall be defined, 
and how many there are, are pragmatic questions in the scientific 
sense; the justification of making a distinction between any two 
classes is that their members behave differently in their relations 
to action. Whether this is the case or not is a question of fact. I 


shall outline such a classification and then present an analysis of 
the role of each so as to demonstrate the importance of making 
the distinctions. 

The first class may be termed existential ideas. The concepts 
which comprise such ideas are the framework for describing or 
analyzing entities, or aspects or properties of them, which pertain 
to the external world of the person who entertains the ideas, the 
actor. These entities either are or are thought to be existent at the 
time, to have existed, or to be likely to exist. The reference is to an 
external "reality" in some sense. The ideas involve existential prop- 
ositions relative to some phase or phases of this reality, real or 
alleged. The most general type of norm governing existential ideas 
is that of "truth." 

Of existential, as of other ideas, it is convenient to distinguish 
two subclasses, the distinction between which is of cardinal impor- 
tance. The one are empirical ideas, the concepts and propositions 
of which are, or are held to be, capable of verification by the 
methods of empirical science. All other existential ideas, on the 
other hand, I shall class together as nonempirical, regardless of 
the reasons why they are not scientifically verifiable.^ 

The second main class are what may be called normative ideas. 
These refer to states of affairs which may or may not actually exist, 
but in either case the reference is not in the indicative but in the 
imperative mood. If the state of affairs exists, insofar as the idea 
is normative the actor assumes an obligation to attempt to keep it 
in existence; if not, he assumes an obligation to attempt its realiza- 
tion at some future time. An idea is normative insofar as the main- 
tenance or attainment of the state of affairs it describes may be 
regarded as an end of the actor. The states of affairs referred to 
may also be classified as empirical and nonempirical according to 
the above criteria.^ 

2 This residual category is formulated for the immediate purposes in hand 
and its use is not to be held to imply that no distinctions between subclasses of 
nonempirical ideas are important for any other purposes. 

3 There is a third class of ideas which may be called "imaginative." The 
content of these refers to entities which are neither thought to be existent nor 
does the actor feel any obhgation to realize them. Examples would be a 
Utopia which is not meant as defining a program of action, or the creation of 
an entirely fictitious series of situations in a novel. At least the most obvious 
significance of such ideas in relation to action is as indices of the sentiments 
and attitudes of the actors rather than as themselves playing a positive role. 
To inquire whether indirectly they do play a role would raise questions 
beyond the scope of this paper and they will be ignored in the subsequent 
discussion. They are mentioned here only to complete the classification. 


The first set of problems to be discussed concerns the role of 
empirical existential ideas. I tliink it fair to say tliat no branch of 
social science has been subjected to more thorough and rigorous 
analysis than this, so it forms an excellent starting point."* The 
context in which this analysis has taken place is the range of prob- 
lems surrounding the concept of the rationality of action in the 
ordinary sense of the maximization of "efficiency" or "utility" by 
the adaptation of means to ends. It is the sense of rationality which 
underlies most current analysis of technological processes in 
science, industry, medicine, military strategy and many other fields, 
which lies at the basis of economic tlieory, and much analysis of 
political processes regarded as processes of maintaining, exercis- 
ing, and achieving power. 

The common feature of all these modes of analysis of action is 
its conception as a process of attaining specific and definite ends 
by the selection of the "most efficient" means available in the situ- 
ation of the actor. This, in turn, implies a standard according to 
which the selection among the many possible alternative means is 
made. There is almost universal agreement that the relevant basis 
of selection in this kind of case involves the actor's knowledge of 
his situation, which includes knowledge of the probable eflFects of 
various possible alternative ways of altering it which are open to 
him. One of the necessary conditions of rationality of his action 
is that the knowledge should be scientifically valid.^ 

Valid empirical knowledge in tliis sense is certainly a system of 
ideas. It consists of concepts and propositions and their logical 
interrelations. Moreover, in all the above analyses of action, this 
knowledge is treated as a variable in the system of action; accord- 
ing to variations in its specific content, tlie action will be different. 
In explaining, above all, failure for the actual course of action to 
conform with a rational norm describing the "best" course, we 
continually refer to features of the store of knowledge of the actor. 
We say "He did not know ..." with the implication that if he had, 
he would have acted differently, and "He supposed erroneously 

4 Much of this analysis is discussed in The Structure of Social Action. See 
esp. chap. 4, 161 ff.; chap. 5, 180 ff.; chap. 9, 344 ff. 

5 "Efficiency" involves choice among two or more alternative ways of at- 
taining an end. The validity of knowledge alone is not a sufficient criterion to 
determine the relative efficiency of tlie different alternatives. Statement of 
the other necessary criteria would involve difficult questions far beyond the 
scope of this paper. 


that . . . ," with the corresponding imphcation that if he had not 
been in error on the level of knowledge, he would also have acted 
difiFerently. Thus, t\vo of the coordinates of variation of knowledge 
which are relevant to its role in action are that in the direction of 
ignorance and of error. There is, for the attainment of any given 
end in any given situation, a certain minimum of valid knowledge 
which is adequate. If the knowledge actually falls short of this, if 
the actor is ignorant of any important features of the situation, or 
if his ideas are invalid, are in error, this is an adequate explanation 
of the failure of his action to be rational. 

The analytical scheme in which the role of valid empirical knowl- 
edge in this sense has been most highly elaborated and conceptu- 
ally refined is economic theory. Knowledge is a basically important 
variable in the system of economic theory, and he who would 
radically deny a role in action to ideas must find a satisfactory 
alternative explanation of all the uniformities of human action 
which have been established by two centuries of economic anal- 
ysis, or demonstrate that the supposed uniformities do not exist. 

But exactly the same thing is true of what we ordinarily call 
technology. The very processes of technological change to which 
many of our "materialists" assign so fundamental a role are in part 
a function of knowledge, i.e., of ideas, in exactly the same sense 
in which economic processes are. And there, far more than in the 
narrowly economic realm, knowledge has become a variable which 
we think of as to a high degree autonomous. For it takes, to a 
large extent, the form of theoretically systematized scientific knowl- 
edge rather than common sense. Surely the development of modern 
aniline dyes, the radio, or alloy steels, cannot be understood with- 
out reference to the essentially autonomous developments of 
science on which they depend. 

Marxian theory has, however, classed technology among the 
"material" factors in social change, while "ideas" form part of the 
superstructure. Whence does this peculiar procedure derive? Two 
important sources of it may be noted. In the first place, Marxian 
theory has neither a rigorous concept of ideas, nor a classification 
of different kinds of ideas. Hence, when those ideas which Marx- 
ians habitually term "ideologies" behave differently from the 
scientific basis of technology, they tend to ignore the fact that the 
latter is also made up of ideas, and generalize the behavior of the 
former into that of ideas in general. Secondly, Marxian theory rests 


on an analytical basis essentially different from that which is the 
starting point of the present discussion. For it, the total concrete 
structure of the industrial enterprise is a "factor," technology, social 
organization and all. The present attempt is to break down entities 
like this into simpler elements, the classification of which cuts 
across the Marxian dichotomy of "ideal" and "material" factors. 
There is no inherent reason why the Marxian choice of variables 
should be ultimate. The only scientific test as between it and 
another, such as that under discussion here, is the pragmatic one: 
which is the more illuminating in the understanding of certain 
empirical problems. 

Every human society possesses a considerable stock of empiri- 
cally valid knowledge, both of the nonhuman environment in 
which its members act, and of themselves, and of each other. That 
this knowledge is empirical and not theoretically systematized in 
the sense of modern science does not alter the fact. Moreover, a 
very large part of the action of the members of all societies is to 
be understood in terms of this knowledge. Levy-Bruhl's theory 
that primitive men do not think logically has, so far as it bears 
upon this point, been definitely discredited.^ 

But in addition to ideas which will stand the test of scientific 
validity, there are current in every society many ideas which in 
one respect or another diverge from this standard. So far as their 
reference is existential rather than normative or imaginative, the 
question arises as to what is the basis of this divergence. In answer 
to this question, a certain positivistic bias is very widely prevalent, 
and must be guarded against. It is the view, implicit or explicit, 
that divergence from the standard of empirical verifiability is 
always and necessarily a matter of empirical shortcomings in the 
sense that the ideas in question are not only, negatively, not verifi- 
able, but that they can be shown to be positively wrong, that is. 
that the basis of their unverifiability is ignorance or error, or both. 
This judgment clearly implies that there is available an adequate 
positive scientific standard by which to judge them. 

At least in the field of empirically known systems of existential 
ideas, it can be stated with confidence that this class, which may be 
called un-scientific ideas, does not exhaust the departures from 
empirical verifiability, but that, in addition, there is a class of con- 

*» See especially B. Malinowski, "Magic, Science and Religion," ed. by 
Robert Redfield (Free Press, Glencoe, 111., 1948). 


cepts and propositions which are unverifiable, not because they 
are erroneous, but because, as Pareto put it, they "surpass experi- 
ence." Such ideas as that the universe is divided between a good 
and an evil principle, that souls go through an unending series of 
reincarnations, that the only escape from sin is by divine grace, 
are in this category. They are nonscientific rather than unscientific.'^ 

What, then, can be said about the role of such nonscientific 
ideas? So far as they are existential rather than normative or imagi- 
native in character, there are certain formal similarities with em- 
pirical, scientifically valid ideas. The latter may, in one aspect, be 
considered as mechanisms of orientation of the actor to his situ- 
ation. Insofar as man is treated as a purposive being, attempting 
rationally to attain ends, he cannot be considered as fully oriented 
to his situation until, among other things, he has adequate knowl- 
edge of the situation in the respects which are relevant to the 
attainment of the ends in question, or other functionally equiva- 
lent mechanisms. 

But the role of existential ideas has so far been considered only 
in one context, that of the basis of choice of means to given ends. 
There is in addition the necessity of cognitive orientation of 
another sort, an answer to the problem of justification of the ends 
which are in fact pursued.® If the justifications men give of why 
they should pursue their ultimate ends are systematically and 
inductively studied, one fact about them stands out. One very 
prominent component of all known comprehensive social systems 
of such justifications must be classed as nonempirical. The more the 

■^ I do not wish to maintain that this distinction possesses ontological sig- 
nificance. To do so would be to alter the plane of the discussion of this paper, 
which has set out to adhere to the scientific level. Inevitably, the basis of the 
distinction must be found in current standards of scientific methodology. From 
this point of view, a nonempirical proposition is one, not only which cannot, 
because of practical difficulties, be verified with present techniques, but 
which involves, in the strict operational sense, "meaningless" questions, ques- 
tions which cannot, in the present state of our scientific and methodological 
knowledge, be answered by a conceivable operation or combination of them. 
Whether, at some future time, a completely positivistic philosophy will be capable 
of demonstration is another question. But I should like to point out that objec- 
tion to this distinction usually involves the positivistic philosophical position; 
it is arbitrarily laid down that all departures from the standard of empirical 
verifiability must be in terms of ignorance and error. The position taken here 
is such that the burden of proof is on him who would object to the distinc- 
tion. It is his task to show empirically that what have here been called un- 
scientific and nonscientific ideas in fact do not stand in different relations to 
action. This shifts the argument from the methodological to the factual plane. 

8 On this problem, see The Structure of Social Action., chap. 5, 205ff. 


attempt is made to state the explicit or implicit major premises of 
such arguments clearly and sharply, the more evident it becomes 
that they are metaphysical rather than scientific propositions. This, 
I maintain, is true of all known social systems; whether it is ulti- 
mately possible to eliminate these nonempirical elements is not a 
relevant question in the present context. 

But the mere demonstration that a certain class of phenomena 
exists does not prove that their description involves, for the pur- 
poses in hand, important variables. The question is not whether 
nonempirical existential ideas are always to be found in social 
systems, but whether important features of these social systems 
can be shown to be functions of variations in the content of these 
ideas. How is this problem to be attacked? 

Most attempts in this field have been couched in terms of the 
historical or genetic method alone. Of course the only possible 
causal factors'^ in the genesis of any particular state of affairs are 
components of particular antecedent states of afFairs in the same 
sequence. But even then causal relationship can be demonstrated 
only by the use of general concepts and generalized knowledge of 
uniformities. The question here at issue does not touch the expla- 
nation of particular facts, but the establishment of uniformities. 
The only possible procedure by which this can be done in our 
field is comparative method which permits the isolation of vari- 
ables. It is the strict logical counterpart of experiment. One impor- 
tant reason for the unsatisfactory character of the discussion of 
these problems revolving about Marxism is the fact that it has 
been almost uniformly couched in genetic, historical terms, as the 
Marxian theory itself is, and analytical generalizations as to the 
role of ideas cannot in principle be either proved or disproved by 
such a method. Hence the indeterminate issue of the controversy. 

By far the most significant empirical studies available in this 
particular field are those of Max Weber in the sociology of reli- 
gion. ^*^' Weber was interested in a particular problem of historical 
imputation, that of the relative role of "material" factors and of 

^ "Factors" in the sense of concrete events or states of affairs, or parts or 
aspects of them, not of generalized, analytical elements like "mass" or 'ideas." 
The two are often confused. See The Structure of Social Action, chap. 16, 

!•* Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Religionssoziologie. 3 vols. The most corrrpre- 
hcnsive secondary accounts in English are in L. L. Bennion, Max Weber's 
Methodology, and The Structure of Social Action, chaps. 14 and 15. 


the religious ideas of certain branches of Protestantism in the 
genesis of what he called rational bourgeois capitalism. But Weber's 
methodological insight showed him that, in the absence of well- 
established general informities touching the role of ideas, it was 
hopeless to attack the problem by more and more elaborate genetic 
studies of the immediate historical background of modem capital- 
ism. So he turned to the comparative method, the study of the 
influence of variations in the content of religious ideas. 

A variable cannot, of course, be isolated unless other possibly 
important variables can, within a relevant range of variation, either 
be held constant or their independence demonstrated. Weber 
attempted to deal with this problem by showing that, in the dif- 
ferent societies he treated, before the development of religious 
ideas in which he is interested, the state of the material factors and 
their prospective autonomous trends of development was, in the 
relevant respects, essentially similar. That is, for instance, in his 
three best worked out cases, those of China, India, and Western 
Europe, he attempted to estimate the relative favorableness or 
unfavorableness of the economic situations, the "conditions of pro- 
duction," to a capitalistic development. The outcome of his studies 
in this respect was the judgment that there is a high degree of 
similarity in all three societies in this respect, with, if anything, a 
balance of favorableness in favor of India and China.^^ 

But the fact remains that only in Europe did the development of 
capitalism actually take place. What accounts for the radically 
diJBFerent outcomes in the three civilizations? It is a fact that the 
development of religious ideas in the three cases took quite dif- 
ferent courses. In relation to this variable, an adequate range of 
variation to account for the differentiation is demonstrable, where- 
as in the case of the material factors it is not. This places the burden 
of proof on him who would advance a materialistic explanation. 
He must show that differentiating elements on this level were 
present of which Weber did not take account. 

However, Weber did not leave his account of the role of reli- 
gious ideas at this point. In terms of a more generalized concep- 
tual scheme, the "theory of action," or his "verstehende Soziologie" 
he analyzed certain mechanisms by which ideas can and do exert an 
influence on action. On the basis of this analysis, he worked out 

11 This part of Weber's work was not methodologically completely rigorous, 
but allowance for this does not affect his general conclusions. 


what is the probable eflFect on certain aspects of secular social life 
of adherence to each of the dominant systems of religious ideas, 
Confucianism, Hinduism and Protestantism, and found these deduc- 
tions verified in that the actual facts corresponded, as seen in 
comparative perspective, with expectations in terms of reasoning 
from this hypothesis. 

He further strengthened his case by working out, in an elaborate 
analysis of evidence from various sources in terms of his concep- 
tual scheme, an understanding of many of the specific mechanisms 
of the process by which this influence has probably been exerted 
and verified this analysis in considerable detail. 

The result of this very comprehensive comparative study in all 
these phases was not only to build up a strong case for his original 
historical thesis, that the ideas of ascetic Protestantism actually 
did play an important causal role in the genesis of modern capital- 
ism. It also resulted in the formulation of a generalized theory of 
the role of nonempirical existential ideas in relation to action. It 
is this which is of primary interest here. 

It was not Weber's view that religious ideas constitute the prin- 
cipal driving force in the determination of the relevant kinds of 
action. This role is rather played by what he called religious 
interests, A typical example is the interest in salvation, an interest 
which has in turn a complex derivation from, among other things, 
certain stresses and strains to which individuals are sometimes 
subjected in social situations where frustration of the worldly ends 
seems inevitable and founded in the nature of things. But the mere 
interest in salvation alone is not enough. The question arises as to 
what kinds of specific action it will motivate. This, Weber's com- 
parative analysis shows, will be very different according to the 
structure of the existential religious ideas according to which the 
individual achieves cognitive orientation to the principal nonem- 
pirical problems he faces in his situation. 

For example, on the basis of the generally imminent, pantheistic 
conception of divinity of Indian philosophy, and more specifically 
of the doctrines of Karma and Transmigration, to seek salvation in 
a radical sense through concrete achievement in worldly spheres 
would be meaningless. If such action contravened the traditional 
order, it would be reprehensible for that reason and set the actor 
back on his quest for salvation; if not, it could only generate more 
Karma and lead to endless rebirths. The only meaning of salvation 
is escape from the "wheel of Karma" in completely otherworldly 


mystical and ascetic exercises. For the Calvinist, on the other hand, 
mystical union with the divine is entirely excluded by the absolute 
transcendentality of God, He has been placed in this world to do 
God's will in the building of the Kingdom. His eternal fate is 
settled by Predestination, but he can become certain of salvation 
through proving his faith by active labor in the vineyard, by doing 
God's will. 

The function of religious ideas is, in relation to the interest in 
salvation, to "define the situation," to use W. I. Thomas' term. 
Only by reference to these ideas is it possible to understand, con- 
cretely, what specific forms of action are relevant to attainment of 
salvation, or certainty of it. Weber succeeded in showing that 
rational, systematic, workmanlike labor in a worldly calling has 
had this significance to ardent believers in Calvinism and related 
religious movements, whereas it would be totally meaningless to 
a believer in Karma and Transmigration on a pantheistic back- 
ground no matter how strong his interest in salvation. In this sense, 
the content of the religious ideas is a significant variable in the 
determination of the concrete course of action. 

So far discussion has been confined to the role of existential ideas. 
These have been dealt with in two quite different contexts. Em- 
pirical ideas have been analyzed in their relation to the problem 
of selection of means according to the norm of rationality. Non- 
empirical ideas, on the other hand, have been treated in relation 
to the teleological problem of orientation of the actor, the justifica- 
tion of selection of ends to pursue. There is a gap between these 
two treatments which must now be filled. Selection of means has 
no significance except in relation to ends, while what has been 
called teleological orientation is equally meaningless unless there 
is, facing actors, a problem of choice between alternative ends. 

Indeed the whole analytical procedure which has here been fol- 
lowed implies that a fundamental role in action is played by nor- 
mative elements. ^^ In the first place, analysis of the underlying 
assumptions involved in treatment of empirical knowledge as an 
independent variable in the choice of means has shown that both 
a positive role of ends, and the existence of determinate relations 
of ends in a more or less well-integrated system are essential to 
the attribution of causal importance to knowledge. Rational action. 

12 The problem of the significance of normative elements in action is 
extensively treated throughout The Structure of Social Action. 


in the sense of action guided by valid knowledge, is at the same 
time action which is normatively oriented. Similarly, the definition 
of the situation with reference to religious interests could have no 
meaning apart from the contention that it made a difference to the 
course of action what ends, among the various alternatives, were 

Not only is action normatively oriented in the sense of pursuing 
ends, it is also subject to certain normative conditions, to rules 
which guide it. For instance, in pursuing the end of closing a 
profitable deal, a businessman may consider himself subject to the 
condition that it shall be done "honestly." From some points of 
view, such rules may be considered themselves as ends, but they 
are not the immediate ends of the course of action under analysis. 
They appear rather as considerations limiting the acceptable range 
of alternative means, choice among which is to be guided by con- 
siderations of rational efficiency. 

Now both ends and guiding norms involve a cognitive element, 
an element of ideas, however little the normative pattern may be 
exhausted in these terms. That such an element is involved may be 
brought out by considering the implications of the questions which 
are inevitably asked when we try to understand action in terms of 
such normative elements. "What is the end ..." of a given course 
of action;— for instance, what is meant by making a profitable deal; 
or "what do you mean ..." by the norm to which a course of 
action is subject,— for instance, by honesty in making a deal? It is 
obvious tliat the answers to all questions must be in the form of 
propositions, that is, of ideas. But in this case, ideas are in some 
sense imputed, not only to the sociological observer of action, but 
to the actor himself. It is a question not of what honesty means to 
the observer, but to the actor. It means, for instance, among other 
things, that he should not attempt to get the other party's consent 
to the deal by making statements about his product as true which 
he knows to be false. 

The essential point for present purposes is that, in so far as anal- 
ysis of action in terms of orientation to ends and norms is scien- 
tifically useful at all, it implies two things: 1. That it is possible to 
impute to the actor with adequate precision for the purposes in 
hand, not only a "will" to attain certain ends or conform with cer- 
tain norms, but a content of those ends and norms which is capable 
of formulation as a set of ideas. 2. That variations in this content 


stand in functional relations to the facts of the system of action 
other than the system of ideas of the actor. 

Whether normative ideas constitute a variable independent of 
others in the system of action, is to be tested by essentially the 
same kind of procedure which was outlined in the case of Weber's 
treatment of religious ideas. Weber himself showed that it is a 
variable in part dependent on nonempirical ideas. This would 
make it, insofar, relatively independent of "material" factors. But 
at the same time, there is no essential reason why an important 
range of variability independent in turn of metaphysical and reli- 
gious ideas does not exist. 

The foregoing analysis of the role of ideas in action has been 
presented in general terms, with appeal to generally known facts, 
and to two bodies of technically specific evidence, that employed 
in economic and technological analyses of rational action, and in 
Max Weber's studies of the role of religious ideas. It is impossible 
within the limits of such a paper to detail any significant sample 
of the enormous mass of empirical evidence, from these and other 
sources, which supports the main lines of the analysis. I should 
not, however, like to close without mentioning one other set of 
considerations which seem to be greatly to strengthen the case 
for my thesis. 

It has already been remarked that demonstration of causal rela- 
tionship in any particular historical sequence cannot be derived 
from observation of the facts of that particular sequence alone; it 
is necessary to be able to apply to these facts generalized theo- 
retical knowledge derived from comparative analysis of a series 
of different particular situations. Only by this procedure can vari- 
ables be isolated and the functional relationships of their values be 
worked out and verified. 

Hence the problem of the role of ideas cannot be treated ade- 
quately in terms of ad hoc recitation of the facts of certain exam- 
ples. It involves systematic theoretical analysis of action, of the 
relation of the same variables to many different concrete situations. 
In both the two cases which have been most fully analyzed above, 
the theorems relative to the role of ideas are not isolated, but are 
an integral part of more comprehensive bodies of theory. Thus the 
analysis of the role of empirical ideas in rational action may be 
regarded as an application to this particular problem of one of the 
most highly developed bodies of generalized theoretical knowl- 


edge in the social field, economic theory. This has the efiEect of 
greatiy strengthening the evidence for the particular theorem, for 
it is verified not only directly with reference to the kind of facts 
here discussed, but indirectly in that it is logically interdependent 
with all the other theorems of economic science. So far as they are 
mutually interdependent, the facts which support any one serve 
also to verify the others. 

In the case of religious ideas, there is no such generally recog- 
nized and used body of theory into which the results of Weber's 
empirical studies can be fitted. But it has already been remarked 
that Weber himself did in fact develop a body of such theory to a 
high degree of systematization in the course of his studies. The 
theoretical structm-e he developed is, in his own work, applicable 
to, and verified in terms of, many other problems than that of 
the role of ideas. But more than this. My own recently published 
analysis of certain phases of the development of social theory in 
the last generations^ has shown that in these theoretical results 
Weber converged with remarkable exactitude and detail on a 
structure in all essentials like that developed by other theorists 
with quite different starting points and empirical interests. In par- 
ticular Durkheim, whose interest was not specifically in the prob- 
lem of the role of ideas at all, but in the basis of social solidarity, 
arrived at a set of categories in the field of religion which corre- 
sponds point for point with that of Weber. Weber's theoretical 
analysis of the role of nonempirical ideas is in fact part of a much 
broader system of analytical social theory, the emergence of which 
can be traced in a number of sources quite independent of Weber. 

Moreover not only did Weber, Durkheim, and others converge 
on this particular part of a theoretical system, dealing mainly with 
rehgion, but as, among other things, very important parts of the 
work of both men show, this common scheme of the sociology of 
religion is in turn j)art of a still broader theoretical system which 
includes the economic and technological analysis of the role of 
empirical knowledge in relation to rationality of action. Both sets 
of problems belong together, and are part of the same more 
generalized analysis of human action.^"* 

1^ The Structure of Social Action. See esp. chaps. 17 and 18: 
^■* The case of Pareto is particularly interesting in this respect. Pareto has 
been very widely heralded as one of the major prophets of anti-intellectualism, 
as one of the principal social theorists who radically denied an important role 
to ideas. Did he not lay particular emphasis on "nonlogical action"? 

To those who have followed the above argument closely, two facts should 


To conclude. The actual controversy over the role of ideas has 
been much more a battle of the implications of rival philosophical 
and other extrascientific points of view than it has been the result 
of careful, empirical analysis of the facts. I suggest that leaving 
these philosophical considerations aside and embarking on such 
careful study will very probably result in much reduction of the 
difference of opinion. The thesis put forward in this paper seems 
to me not only to fit very important bodies of well established and 
carefully analyzed facts. It also fits in with a body of generalized 
theoretical knowledge of human social action, which has already 
accumulated a heavy weight of scientific authority behind it in a 
large number of different factual fields. This seems to me to justify 
taking the positive role of ideas as a working hypothesis for further 
empirical research. The result of such research will, as always, be 
to modify the formulations of the problem, and of theorems which 
appear to be verified, from forms which seemed acceptable when 
the research process began. But such modification is not "refutation" 
of a theory; it is the normal course of scientific progress to which 
the superseded theory itself makes an essential contribution. 

make one suspicious of this interpretation. First, Pareto was well trained in 
economic theory, and insofar as he attributes importance to the elements it 
analyzes, to the "interests," he must, ipso facto attribute importance to ideas. 
But not only this; he makes the conception of rationality in precisely the 
technological-economic sense the starting point of his own broader analysis of 
action. Nonlogical action is precisely action insofar as it cannot be understood 
in terms of this standard of rationality. 

It turns out on analysis that his main theoretical scheme as such involves 
no theorem at all as to the role of ideas, except empirical existential ideas. His 
actual thesis is, not that other ideas have no role, but that beyond the range of 
applicability of this kind of conception of rationality or logical action, the ideas 
which do have a role cannot claim empirical scientific validity. But in his actual 
treatment there is much evidence that he attributes a very important role to 
nonempirical existential and normative ideas. This conclusion is strongly con- 
firmed by the circumstances that Pareto's general conceptual scheme converges 
in all essential respects with the broader more general theoretical structure of 
which I have spoken, which may also be found in the works of Max Weber and 
Durkheim. It would indeed be strange, in the light of this fact, if there were a 
radical disagreement between them on so basic a theorem as that of the role 
of ideas. 

The interpretation of Pareto as a radical anti-intellectualist appears to arise 
mainly from two sources. On the one hand, there is, in the formulation of his 
approach to the analysis of action a source of anti-intellectualistic bias ( The 
Structure of Social Action, 272, Note 1), wliich does not however play any sub- 
stantive part in the main theoretical structure. This is indicative of the fact that 
his own theory was imperfectly integrated; and there are, underlying this, cur- 
rents of thought which tend in this direction. But more important than this basis 
in Pareto's own work is the fact that the general majority of Pareto's interpreters 
have approached his work with an interpretive bias which enormously exagger- 
ates the importance of these tendencies. The source of this bias is the fact that 
interpretation has been predominantly in terms of a positivistic system of gen- 
eral social tlieory. See The Structure of Social Action, chaps. 5-7. 


The Professions 
and Social Structure 

COMPARATIVE STUDY of the social structures of the most important 
civilizations shows that the professions occupy a position of im- 
portance in our society which is, in any comparable degree of 
development, unique in history. Perhaps the closest parallel is the 
society of the Roman Empire where, notably, the Law was very 
highly developed indeed as a profession. But even there the pro- 
fessions covered a far narrower scope than in the modem Western 
world. There is probably in Rome no case of a particular profession 
more highly developed than in our own society, and there was 
scarcely a close analogy to modern engineering, medicine or edu- 
cation in quantitative importance, though all of tliem were devel- 
oped to a considerable degree. 

It seems evident that many of the most important features of 
our society are to a considerable extent dependent on the smooth 
functioning of the professions. Both the pursuit and the applica- 
tion of science and liberal learning are predominantly carried out 
in a professional context. Their results have become so closely 
interwoven in the fabric of modern society that it is difficult to 
imagine how it could get along vidthout basic structural changes 
if they were seriously impaired. 

There is a tendency to think of the development and application 
of science and learning as a socially unproblematical process. A 
vague sort of "curiosity" and beyond that mere possession of the 
requisite knowledge are held to be enough. This is evidenced by 
the air of indignant wonder with which technologically minded 
people sometimes cite the fact that actual technical performance is 
well below the theoretical potentialities of 100 percent efficiency. 
Only by extensive comparative study does it become evident that 
for even a moderate degree either of the development or the ap- 
plication of science there is requisite a complex set of social con- 


ditions which the "technologically minded" seldom think of, but 
incline to take for granted as in the nature of things. Study of the 
institutional framework within which professional activities are 
carried on should help considerably to understand the nature and 
functions of some of these social "constants." 

The professions do not, however, stand alone as typical or dis- 
tinctive features of modern Western civilization. Indeed, if asked 
what were the most distinctive features, relatively few social scien- 
tists or historians would mention the professions at all. Probably 
the majority would unhesitatingly refer to the modem economic 
order, to "capitalism," "free enterprise," the "business economy," 
or however else it is denominated, as far more significant. Probably 
the only major exception to this would be the relatively prominent 
attention given to science and technology, but even these would 
not be thought of mainly in relation to the professional framework, 
but rather as handmaidens of economic interests. 

Not only is there a tendency to empirical concentration on the 
business world in characterizing this societ)^ but this is done in 
terms which tend to minimize the significance of the professions. 
For the dominant keynote of the modern economic system is almost 
universally held to be the high degree of free play it gives to the 
pursuit of self-interest. It is the "acquisitive society," or the "profit 
system" as two of the most common formulas run. But by contrast 
with business in this interpretation the professions are marked by 
"disinterestedness." The professional man is not thought of as 
engaged in the pursuit of his personal profit, but in performing 
services to his patients or clients, or to impersonal values like the 
advancement of science. Hence the professions in this context 
appear to be atypical, to some even a mere survival of the media- 
eval guilds. Some think that these spheres are becoming progres- 
sively commercialized, so that as distinctive structures they wdll 
probably disappear. 

There are various reasons for believing that this way of looking 
at the "essence" of modern society is a source of serious bias in 
the sociological interpretation of the situation. The fact that the 
professions have reached a uniquely high level of development in 
the same society which is also characterized by a business economy 
suggests that the contrast between business and the professions 
which has been mainly started in terms of the problem of self- 
interest, is not the whole story. Possibly there are elements com- 


mon to both areas, indeed to our whole occupational system, which 
are at least as important to their functioning as is self-interest to 
business, disinterestedness to the professions. The concrete inter- 
penetration of the two, as exemplified in the role of engineers and 
lawyers in the conduct of business enterprises would suggest that. 
The study of the professions, by eliminating the element of self- 
interest in the ordinary sense, would seem to offer a favorable 
approach to the analysis of some of these common elements. This 
paper will deal with three of them which seem to be of particular 
importance to the modem occupational structure as a whole, in- 
cluding business, the professions, and government. 

But before entering on their discussion a further point may be 
noted. In much of traditional thought about human action the most 
basic of all differences in types of human motivation has been held 
to be that between "egoistic" and "altruistic" motives. Correlative 
with this there has been the tendency to identify this classification 
with the concrete motives of different spheres of activity: the 
business man has been thought of as egoistically pursuing his own 
self-interest regardless of the interests of others, while the profes- 
sional man was altruistically serving the interests of others regard- 
less of his own. Seen in this context the professions appear not only 
as empirically somewhat different from business, but the two 
fields would seem to exemplify the most radical cleavage conceiv- 
able in the field of human behavior. 

If it can be shown that the difference wdth respect to self-interest 
does not preclude very important institutional similarities in other 
respects, a further possibility suggests itself. Perhaps even in this 
respect the difference is not so great as our predominantly economic 
and utilitarian orientation of thought would lead us to believe. 
Perhaps even it is not mainly a difference of typical motive at all, 
but one of the different situations in which much the same com- 
monly human motives operate. Perhaps the acquisitiveness of 
modern business is institutional rather than motivational. 

Let us, however, turn first to the elements of the common insti- 
tutional pattern of the occupational sphere generally, ignoring for 
the moment the problem of self-interest. The empirical promi- 
nence of industrial technology calls attention immediately to one 
of them. Industrial technology in the modern world has become 
to a large extent "applied science." One of the dominant character- 
istics of science is its "rationality" in the sense which is opposed to 



"traditionalism." Scientific investigation, like any other human 
activity when viewed in terms of the frame of reference of action, 
is oriented to certain normative standards. One of the principal of 
these in the case of science is that of "objective truth." Whatever 
else may be said of this metliodologically difficult conception, it 
is quite clear that the mere fact that a proposition has been held 
to be true in the past is not an argument either for or against it 
before a scientific forum. The norms of scientific investigation, the 
standards by which it is judged whether work is of high scientific 
quality, are essentially independent of traditional judgments. 

What is true of science as such is in turn true of its practical ap- 
plications. Insofar as a judgment of what is the '^best" thing to do 
rests on scientific considerations, whether it be in technology or 
in medicine, the merely traditional way of doing it as "the fathers" 
have done it, fails to carry normative authority. The relevant ques- 
tions are, rather, objective,— what are the facts of the situation and 
what will be the consequences of various alternative procedures? 
Furthermore rationality in this sense extends far beyond the boun- 
daries of either pure or applied science in a technical sense. The 
business man, the foreman of labor, and not least the non-scientific 
professional man such as the lawyer, is enjoined to seek the "best," 
the most "efficient" way of carrying on his function, not to accept 
the time-honored mode. Even though the range of such rational 
considerations be limited by ends which are institutionally kept 
outside discussion, as the financial well-being of the enterprise or, 
as in the law, certain accepted principles of the Common Law, 
still, within the limits, traditionalism is not authoritative. 

It should be noted that rationality in this sense is institutional, 
a part of a normative pattern: it is not a mode of orientation which 
is simply "natural" to men. On the contrary comparative study 
indicates that the present degree of valuation of rationahty as 
opposed to traditionalism is rather "unnatural" in the sense that it is 
a highly exceptional state. The fact is that we are under continual 
and subtle social pressures to be rationally critical, particularly of 
ways and means. The crushing force to us of such epithets as 
"stupid" and "gullible" is almost sufficient indication of this. The 
importance of rationality in the modern professions generally, but 
particularly in those important ones concerned with the develop- 
ment and application of science serves to emphasize its role in the 
society at large. But this is even more impressively the case since 


here it is divorced from the institutionahzed expectation of self- 
interest typical of the contractual pattern of business conduct. 

In quite a different way the role of the professions serves to 
bring out a second widely pervasive aspect of our general occupa- 
tional pattern. There is a very important sense in which the pro- 
fessional practitioner in our society exercises authority. We speak 
of the doctor as issuing "orders" even though we know that the 
only "penalty" for not obeying them is possible injury to the pa- 
tient's own health. A lawyer generally gives "advice" but if the 
client knew just as well what to do it would be unnecessary for 
him to consult a lawyer. This professional authority has a peculiar 
sociological structure. It is not as such based on a generally 
superior status, as is the authority a Southern white man tends to 
assume over any Negro, nor is it a manifestation of superior "wis- 
dom" in general or of higher moral character. It is rather based on 
the superior "technical competence" of the professional man. He 
often exercises his authority over people who are, or are reputed 
to be, his superiors in social status, in intellectual attainments or 
in moral character. This is possible because the area of professional 
authority is limited to a particular technically defined sphere. It is 
only in matters touching health that the doctor is by definition 
more competent than his lay patient, only in matters touching his 
academic specialty that the professor is superior, by virtue of his 
status, to his student. Professional authority, like other elements of 
the professional pattern, is characterized by "specificity of func- 
tion." The technical competence which is one of the principal 
defining characteristics of the professional status and role is always 
limited to a particular "field" of knowledge and skill. This specifi- 
city is essential to the professional pattern no matter how difiicult 
it may be, in a given case, to draw the exact boundaries of such a 
field. As in all similar cases of continuous variation, it is legitimate 
to compare widely separated points. In such terms it is obvious 
tliat one does not call on the services of an engineer to deal with 
persistent epigastric pain, nor on a professor of Semitic languages 
to clarify a question about the kinship system of a tribe of Aus- 
tralian natives. A professional man is held to be "an authority" 
only in his own field. 

Functionally specific technical competence is only one type of 
case in which functional specificity is an essential element of mod- 
ern institutional patterns. Two others of great importance may be 


mentioned to give a better idea of the scope of this institutional 
element. In the first place, in the classic type of "contractual rela- 
tionship," rights and obligations are specifically limited to what 
are implicitly or explicitly the "terms of the contract." The burden 
of proof that it is really owed, is on him who would exact an obli- 
gation, while in many other types of relationship the opposite is 
true, the burden of proof that it is not due is on the one who would 
evade an obligation. Thus in an ordinary case of commercial 
indebtedness, a request for money on the part of one party will be 
met by the question, do I owe it? Whether the requester "needs" 
the money is irrelevant, as is whether the other can well aflFord to 
pay it. If, on the other hand, the two are brothers, any contractual 
agreements are at least of secondary importance; the important 
questions are, on the one hand, whether and how urgently the one 
needs the money, on the other whether the second can "afiFord" it. 
In the latter connection it comes down to a question of the pos- 
sible conflict of this with what are recognized as higher obligations. 
In the commercial case it is not necessary even to cite what other 
possible uses for the money may be involved, the question is only 
why it should be paid. In the kinship case the question is im- 
mediately why the request should not be met, and the only satis- 
factory answer is the citing of higher obligations with which it 
conflicts. Commercial relations in our society are predominantly 
functionally specific, kinship relations, functionally diffuse. 

Similarly if a doctor asks a patient a question the relevant reac- 
tion is to ask why he should answer it, and the legitimizing reply 
is that the answer is necessary for the specific function the doctor 
has been called upon to perform, diagnosing an illness for instance. 
Questions which cannot be legitimized in this way would normally 
be resented by the patient as "prying" into his private affairs. The 
patient's wife, on the other hand, would, according to our pre- 
dominant sentiments, be entitled to an explanation as to why a 
question should not be answered. The area of the marriage rela- 
tionship is not functionally specific, but diffuse. 

Functional specificity is also essential to another crucial pattern 
of our society, that of administrative "office." In an administrative 
or bureaucratic hierarchy, authority is distributed and institution- 
alized in terms of office. By virtue of his office a man can do things, 
particularly in the sense of giving orders to others, which in his 
"private capacity" he would not be allowed to do at all. Thus the 


treasurer of a company, in the name of the company, can some- 
times sign checks for very large amounts which far exceed his 
private resources. But the authority of office in this sense is strictly 
limited to the powers of the particular office, as defined in the 
structure of the hierarchy in question. Authority in this sense is not 
enjoyed by virtue of a technical competence. The treasurer does 
not necessarily have a skill in signing checks which is superior to 
that of many of his subordinates. But this kind of authority shares 
with that based on technical competence the fact that it is func- 
tionally specific. The officer of a concern is condemned or penalized 
for exceeding his authority in a way similar to that in which a 
doctor would be for trying to get his patient to do things not 
justified as means of maintaining or improving his health. As in 
the case of rationality, the concentration of much of our social 
theory on the problem of self-interest has served to obscure the 
importance of functional specificity, an institutional feature com- 
mon to the professional and the commercial spheres. Again, as in 
the case of rationality, this cannot be taken for granted as 
"natural" to human action generally. The degree of differentiation 
of these specffic spheres of authority and obligation from the more 
diffuse types of social relation— like those of kinship and gener- 
alized loyalty to "leaders"— which we enjoy, is most unusual in 
human societies, and calls for highly specific explanation. It is one 
of the most prominent features of the "division of labor." 

It is not uncommon in sociological discussions today to distin- 
guish between "segmental" and "total" bases in the relationships 
of persons. What has above been spoken of as functional specificity 
naturally applies only to segmental relationships. But relations 
may be segmented without being functionally specific, in that the 
separation of contents of the different relations in which a given 
person stands need not be carried out primarily on a functional 
basis. Friendships are usually segmental in this sense, one does 
not share all his life and interests with any one friend. But aside 
from structurally fortuitous variations due to the fact that there 
may be different areas of common interest, friendships are more 
apt to be differentiated on the bases of degrees of "intimacy" than 
on that of the specific functional content. Hence the distinction 
cuts across the one we have been discussing. But it serves to direct 
attention to the third pattern element not taken account of in tlie 
discussions of self-interest. The more two people's total personal- 



ities are involved in the basis of their social relationship, the less 
it is possible for either of them to abstract from the particular person 
of the other in defining its content. It becomes a matter of what A 
means to B as a particular person. To a considerable extent in all 
three of the types of functionally specific pattern discussed above 
it is possible to abstract; to the professional man the other party is 
a "case" or a "client," to the business man a "customer," to the 
administrative officer a "subordinate." Cases, customers, and subor- 
dinates are classified by criteria which do not distinguish persons 
or the particular relations of persons as such. Cases are "medical" 
or "surgical," customers are "large" and "small," or good and poor 
credit risks, subordinates are eflBcient or ineflBcient, quick or slow, 
obedient or insubordinate. On the other hand in kinship relations 
such "objective" and universal bases of classification cannot be 
used. A's father is distinguished from all other males of an older 
generation, not by his physiological or pathological characteristics, 
not by his financial status, nor by his administrative qualities, but 
by virtue of the particular relation in which he stands to A. 

The matter may be approached from a slightly different point 
of view. A heart specialist, for instance, may have to decide whether 
a given person who comes to his office is eligible for a relatively 
permanent relation to him as his patient. So far as the decision is 
taken on technical professional grounds the relevant questions do 
not relate to who the patient is but to what is the matter with him. 
The basis of the decision will be "universalistic," the consideration 
of whether he has symptoms which indicate a pathological con- 
dition of the heart. Whose son, husband, friend he is, is in this 
context irrelevant. Of course, if a doctor is too busy to take on all 
the new patients who apply, particularistic considerations may 
play a part in the selection, he may give special attention to the 
friend of a relative. But this is not the organizing principle of the 
doctor-patient relationship. Similarly within a relationship once 
established it is possible to make the same distinction with respect 
to the basis on which rights are claimed or obligations accepted. 
A patient's claim on his doctor's time is primarily a matter of the 
objective features of the "case" regardless of who the patient is, 
while a wife's claim on her husband's time is a matter of the fact 
that she is his wife, regardless, within limits, of what the occasion 
is. The standards and criteria which are independent of the par- 
ticular social relationship to a particular person may be called 


universalistic, those which apply by virtue of such a relationship 
on the other hand are particularistic. Like all such analytical dis- 
tinctions it does not preclude that both elements may be involved 
in the same concrete situation. But nevertheless their relative pre- 
dominance is a matter of the greatest importance. 

The fact that the central focus of the professional role lies in a 
technical competence gives a very great importance to universal- 
ism in the institutional pattern governing it. Science is essentially 
universalistic,— u;/io states a proposition is as such irrelevant to 
the question of its scientific value. The same is true of all applied 
science. But the role of universalism is by no means confined to 
the professions. It is equally important to the patterns governing 
contractual relationships, for instance in the standards of common 
honesty, and to administrative office. 

It is one of the most sbiking features of our occupational system 
that status in it is to a high degree independent of status in kin- 
ship groups, the neighborhood and the like, in short from what are 
sometimes called primary group relationships. It may be sug- 
gested that one of the main reasons for this lies in the dominant 
importance of universalistic criteria in the judgment of achieve- 
ment in the occupational field. Where technical competence, the 
technical impartiality of administration of an ofiice and the like 
are of primary functional importance, it is essential that particular- 
istic considerations should not enter into the bases of judgment 
too much. The institutional insulation from social structures where 
particularism is dominant is one way in which this can be accom- 

While there is a variety of reasons^ why disinterestedness is of 
great functional significance to the modern professions, there is 
equally impressive evidence for the role of rationality, functional 
specificity and universalism, as well as, perhaps, other elements 
which have not been taken up here. In both respects the impor- 
tance of the professions as a peculiar social structure within the 
wider society calls attention to the importance of elements other 
than the enlightened self-interest of economic and utilitarian the- 
ory. On the one hand, it does so in that the institutional pattern 
governing professional activity does not, in the same sense, sanc- 
tion the pursuit of self-interest as the corresponding one does in 
the case of business. On the other hand, the very fact that in spite 
of this difference the professions have all three of these other ele- 



ments in common with the business pattern, and with other parts 
of our occupational structure, such as government and other ad- 
ministration, calls attention to the possibility that the dominant 
importance of the problem of self-interest itself has been exag- 
gerated. This impression is greatly stiengthened by the results of 
extensive comparative study of the relations of our own institu- 
tional structure to that of widely different societies which, unfor- 
tunately, it is impossible to report on in this paper. 

Returning to the professions, however, study of the relation of 
social structure to individual action in this field can, as it was sug- 
gested earlier, by comparison throw light on certain other theoreti- 
cally crucial aspects of the problem of the role of self-interest itself. 
In the economic and related utilitarian traditions of thought the 
difference between business and the professions in this respect has 
strongly tended to be interpreted as mainly a difference in the 
typical motives of persons acting in the respective occupations. 
The dominance of a business economy has seemed to justify the 
view that ours was an "acquisitive society" in which every one was 
an "economic man" who cared little for the interests of others. 
Professional men, on the other hand, have been thought of as 
standing above these sordid considerations, devoting their lives to 
"service" of their fellow men. 

There is no doubt that there are important concrete differences. 
Business men are, for instance, expected to push their financial 
interests by such aggressive measures as advertising. They are not 
expected to sell to customers regardless of the probability of their 
being paid, as doctors are expected to treat patients. In each im- 
mediate instance in one sense the doctor could, if he did these 
things according to the business pattern, gain financial advantages 
which conformity with his own professional pattern denies him. 
Is it not then obvious that he is "sacrificing" his self-interest for the 
benefit of others? 

The situation does not appear to be so simple. It is seldom, even 
in business, that the immediate financial advantage to be derived 
from a particular transaction is decisive in motivation. Orientation 
is rather to a total comprehensive situation extending over a con- 
siderable period of time. Seen in these terms the difference may lie 
rather in the "definitions of the situation" than in the typical 
motives of actors as such. 

Perhaps the best single approach to the distinction of these two 


elements is in the question, in what do the goals of ambition con- 
sist? There is a sense in which, in both cases, the dominant goal 
may be said to be the same, "success." To this there would appear 
to be two main aspects. One is a satisfactory modicum of attain- 
ment of the technical goals of the respective activities, such as 
increasing the size and improving the portion of the business firm 
for which the individual is in whole or in part responsible, or at- 
taining a good proportion of cures or substantial improvement in 
the condition of patients. The other aspect is the attainment of high 
standing in one's occupational group, "recognition" in Thomas' 
term. In business this will involve official position in the firm, in- 
come, and that rather intangible but none the less important thing, 
"reputation," as well as perhaps particular "honors" such as elec- 
tion to clubs and the like. In medicine it will similarly involve size 
and character of practice, income, hospital and possibly medical 
school appointments, honors, and again reputation. The essential 
' goals in the two cases would appear to be substantially the same, 
\ objective achievement and recognition: the difference lies in the 
different paths to the similar goals, which are in turn determined 
' by the differences in the respective occupational situations. 

There are two particularly important empirical qualffications to 
what has been said. In the first place certain things are important 
not only as symbols of recognition, but in other contexts as well. This 
is notably true of money. Money is significant for what it can buy, 
as well as in the role of a direct symbol of recognition. Hence in 
so far as ways of earning money present themselves in the situation 
which are not strictly in the line of institutionally approved 
achievement, there may be strong pressure to resort to them so 
long as the risk of loss of occupational status is not too great. 

This leads to the second consideration. The above sketch applies 
literally only to a well-integrated situation. In so far as the actual 
state of affairs deviates from this type the two main elements of 
success, objective achievement which is institutionally valued, and 
acquisition of the various recognition-symbols, may not be well 
articulated. Actual achievement may fail to bring recognition in 
due proportion, and vice versa achievements either of low quahty 
or in unapproved lines may bring disproportionate recognition. 
Such lack of integration inevitably places great strains on the 
individual placed in such a situation and behavior deviant from 
the institutional pattern results on a large scale. It would seem 


that, seen in this perspective, so-called "commercialism" in medi- 
cine and "dishonest" and "shady" practices in business have much 
in common as reactions to these strains. 

Even in these cases, however, it is dubious whether such practices 
result primarily from egoistic motivation in the simple sense of 
utilitarian theory. The following seems a more adequate account 
of the matter: "normally," i.e. in an integrated situation, the 
"interests" in self-fulfillment and realization of goals, are integrated 
and fused with the normative patterns current in the society, incul- 
cated by current attitudes of approval and disapproval and their 
various manifestations. The normal individual feels satisfaction in 
eflFectively carrying out approved patterns and shame and disap- 
pointment in failure. For instance courage in facing physical dan- 
ger is often far from "useful" to the individual in any ordinary 
egoistic sense. But most normal boys and men feel intense satisfac- 
tion in performing courageous acts, and equally intense shame if 
they have been afraid. Correlatively they are approved and ap- 
plauded for courageous behavior and severely criticized for 
cowardice. The smooth functioning of the mechanisms of such 
behavior which integrates individual satisfactions and social expec- 
tations is dependent upon the close correspondence of objective 
achievement and the bases and symbols of recognition. Where this 
correspondence is seriously disturbed the individual is placed in a 
conflict situation and is hence insecure. If he sticks to the approved 
objective achievements his desires for recognition are frustrated; 
if on the other hand he sacrifices this to acquisition of the recog- 
nition symbols he has guilt-feelings and risks disapproval in some 
important quarters. CommerciaUsm and dishonesty are to a large 
extent the reactions of normal people to this kind of conflict situ- 
ation. The conflict is not generally a simple one between the actor's 
self-interest and his altruistic regard for others or for ideals, but 
between different components of the normally unified goal of 
"success" each of which contains both interested and disinterested 
motivation elements. 

If this general analysis of the relation of motivation to institu- 
tional patterns is correct two important correlative conclusions 
follow. On the one hand the typical motivation of professional men 
is not in the usual sense "altruistic," nor is that of business men 
typically "egoistic." Indeed there is little basis for maintaining 
that there is any important broad difference of typical motivation in 


the two cases, or at least any of sufficient importance to account for 
the broad differences of socially expected behavior. On the other 
hand tliere is a clear-cut and definite difference on the institutional 
level. The institutional patterns governing the two fields of action 
are radically different in this respect. Not only are they different; 
it can be shown conclusively that this difference has very impor- 
tant functional bases. But it is a difference in definition of the 
situation. Doctors are not altruists, and the famous "acquisitive- 
ness" of a business economy is not the product of "enlightened 
self-interest." The opinion may be hazarded that one of the prin- 
cipal reasons why economic thought has failed to see this fimda- 
mentally important fact is that it has confined its empirical attention 
to the action of the market place and has neglected to study its 
relations to other types of action. Only by such comparative 
study, the sociological equivalent of experimentation, is the isola- 
tion of variables possible. 

These are a few of the ways in which a study of the professions 
can, indirectly and directly, throw light on some of the essential 
features of the occupational structure of modern society. In con- 
clusion two further related lines of analysis may be suggested, 
though there is no space to follow them out. Naturally the occu- 
pational structure of any social system does not stand alone, but 
is involved in complex interrelationships, structural and functional, 
with other parts of the same social system. Above all most or at 
least many of these other structures involve quite different struc- 
tural patterns from those dominant in the occupational sphere. In 
the case of the modern liberal state and the universalistic Christian 
churches there is a relatively high degree of structural congruence 
with the occupational system; hence the elements of conflict are 
more those of scope and concrete content of interests than of 
structural disharmony as such. But certain other parts of the sys- 
tem have structurally quite different institutional patterns. Among 
these notably are family and kinship, friendship, class loyalties and 
identifications so far as they are bound up with birth and the dif- 
fuse "community" of common styles of life, and loyalty to partic- 
ular leaders and organizations as such, independently of what they 
"stand for." In all these cases though in different ways and degrees, 
particularism tends to replace universalism, and functional diffuse- 
ness, specificity. To a lesser degree they have tendencies to tradi- 
tionalism. Absolute insulation of these other structures from that 


of the occupational sphere is impossible since the same concrete 
individuals participate in both classes. But much depends on the 
degree of relative insulation which it is possible to attain. In par- 
ticular the kind of deviation from the norms of institutional inte- 
gration in the occupational sphere which was discussed above 
creates a situation in which a breakdown of the institutional pat- 
tern itself in favor of one structurally similar to these other types 
can readily take place. 

This danger is generally accentuated by the fact that the main- 
tenance of the dominant pattern in the occupational sphere is sub- 
ject to many severe strains. The reference is not to the problem of 
"enforcement" as such. There is much deviant behavior in violation 
of normative patterns which does not significantly involve the 
emergence of alternative normative patterns. The problem of 
keeping down the murder rate does not involve in any serious 
way a conflict of values in which one group stands out for the 
right to murder. But in certain situations such conflicts of values 
and resultant loyalties become of great importance. One prominent 
example may be cited. 

Our administrative hierarchies, for instance, in a business corpo- 
ration or a government agency, involve an institutional pattern 
which is predominantly universalistic and functionally specific. 
Authority is distributed and legitimized only within the limited 
sphere of the "office" and the claim to it is regulated by universal- 
istic standards. But such a pattern is never fully descriptive of the 
concrete structure. The various offices are occupied by concrete 
individuals with concrete personalities who have particular con- 
crete social relations to other individuals. The institutionally en- 
joined rigid distinction between the sphere, powers and obligation 
of office and those which are "personal" to the particular individuals 
is difficult to maintain. In fact in every concrete structure of this 
sort there is to a greater or less degree a system of "chques." That 
is, certain groups are more closely solidary than the strict institu- 
tional definition of their statuses calls for and correspondingly, as 
between such groups there is a degree of antagonism which is not 
institutionally sanctioned. The existence of such clique structures 
places the individual in a conflict situation. He is for instance 
pulled between the "impartial," "objective" loyalty to his superior 
as the incumbent of an office, and the loyalty to a person whom he 
likes, who has treated him well, etc. Since in the society generally 


the patterns of personal loyalty and friendship are prominent and 
deeply ingrained, it is easy for these considerations gradually to 
come to predominate over the main pattern. Obligation to the 
duties of ofBce, including submission to authority, is replaced by 
loyalty to an individual, that is, a particularistic is substituted for 
a universalistic basis. Similarly a superior in the clique structure 
may feel entitled to ask "favors" of his subordinates which go well 
beyond the strictly defined boundaries of their official duties, hence 
tending to break down the specificity of function. The processes 
involved are highly complex, but it is by no means impossible 
that they should be cumulative in one direction and lead to a 
serious impairment of the older occupational pattern. Indeed the 
evidence generally points to the conclusion that the main occu- 
pational pattern is upheld as well as it is by a rather precarious 
balance of social forces, and that any at all considerable change 
in this balance may have far-reaching consequences. 

The importance of the professions to social structure may be 
summed up as follows: The professional type is the institutional 
frame work in which many of our most important social functions 
are carried on, notably the pursuit of science and liberal learning 
and its practical application in medicine, technology, law and 
teaching. This depends on an institutional structure the mainte- 
nance of which is not an automatic consequence of belief in the 
importance of the functions as such, but involves a complex balance 
of diverse social forces. Certain features of this pattern are pecul- 
iar to professional activities, but others, and not the least important 
ones, are shared by this field with the other most important 
branches of our occupational structure, notably business and 
bureaucratic administration. Certain features of our received 
traditions of thought, notably concentration of attention on the 
problem of self-interest with its related false dichotomy of con- 
crete egoistic and altruistic motives, has served seriously to obscure 
the importance of these other elements, notably rationality, speci- 
ficity of function and universalism. Comparison of the professional 
and business structure in their relations to the problem of individual 
motivation is furthermore a very promising avenue of approach to 
certain more general problems of the relations of individual motiva- 
tion to institutional structures with particular reference to the 
problem of egoism and altruism. Finally, the often rather unstable 
relation of the institutional structures of the occupational sphere. 


including the professions, to other structurally difiFerent patterns, 
can throw much light on important strains and instabilities of the 
social system, and through them on certain of its possibilities of 
dynamic change. 


The Motivation 

of Economic Activities 

SPECIALIZATION IS, without doubt, one of the most important 
factors in the development of modem science, since beyond a 
certain level of technicality it is possible, even with intensive ap- 
plication, to master only a limited sector of the total of human 
knowledge. But some modes of specialization are, at the same 
time, under certain circumstances, an impediment to the adequate 
treatment of some ranges of problems. 

The principal reason for this limitation of the fruitfulness of at 
least some kinds of specialization lies in the fact that the special- 
ized sciences involve a kind of abstraction. They constitute sys- 
tematically organized bodies of knowledge, and their organization 
revolves about relatively definite and therefore Hmited conceptual 
schemes. They do not treat the concrete phenomena they study 
"in general" but only so far as they are directly relevant to the con- 
ceptual scheme which has become established in the science. In 
relation to certain limited ranges of problems and phenomena 
this is often adequate. But it is seldom, after such a conceptual 
scheme has become well worked out, that its abstractness does 
not sooner or later become a crucial source of difficulty in relation 
to some empirical problems. This is apt to be especially true on 
the peripheries of what has been the central field of interest of 
the science, in fields to which some of the broader implications of 
its conceptual scheme and its broader generalizations are applied, 
or in which the logically necessary premises of certain of these 
generalizations must be sought. 

This has been notably the case with economics, precisely 
because, of all the sciences dealing with human behavior in soci- 
ety, it was the earliest to develop a well-integrated conceptual 
scheme and even today has brought this aspect of its science to a 
higher level of formal perfection than has any other social disci- 


pline. More than a century ago, however, economists began to be 
interested in the broader impHcations of their system and of the 
facts it had succeeded in systematizing. Perhaps more than in any 
other direction these "speculations" have concentrated on the 
range of problems which have been involved in the idea af "laissez- 
faire," of the functioning of a total economic system of "free- 
enterprise" untrammelled by controls imposed from without and 
without important relations to elements of human action which 
played no explicit part in the conceptual armory of economic 

Once the attention of the economist has extended to problems as 
broad as this, the problem of the motivation of economic activities, 
whether explicitly recognized or not, has inevitably become involved 
by implication. The equilibrating process of a free economy was 
a matter of responsiveness to certain types of changes in the 
situation of action, to the prices, the supplies, and the conditions 
of demand for goods. The key individual in the system, the busi- 
ness man, was placed in a position where money calculations of 
profit and loss necessarily played a dominant part in the processes 
of adjustment, when they were analyzed from the point of view 
of why the individual acted as he did. In a certain empirical sense 
it has seemed a wholly justifiable procedure to assume that he 
acted to maximize his "self-interest," interpreted as the financial 
returns of the enterprise, or more broadly, he could be trusted to 
prefer a higher financial return to a lower, a smaller financial loss 
to a greater. 

From these apparently obvious facts it was easy to generalize 
that what kept the system going was the "rational pursuit of self- 
interest" on the part of all the individuals concerned, and to sup- 
pose that this formula constituted a sufficient key to a generalized 
theory of the motivation of human behavior, at least in the eco- 
nomic and occupational spheres. It is important to note that this 
formula and the various interpretations that were put upon it was 
not the result of intensive technical economic observation and 
analysis in the sense in which the theory of value and of distribu- 
tion have been, but of finding a plausible formula for filling a 
logical gap in the closure of a system. This gap had to be filled if 
a certain order of broad generalization were to be upheld. Such 
current doctrines, outside the strictly economic sphere, as psycho- 
logical hedonism, seemed to support this formula and to increase 


confidence in the universal applicability of the economic concep- 
tual scheme. 

In the meantime a good deal of work has been going on in other 
fields of the study of human behavior which has for the most part 
been rather rigidly insulated from the work of economists, but 
which bears on the problem of motivation, in ways which are 
applicable, among others, to the economic sphere. This has been 
true of social anthropology, and of parts of sociology and of 
psychology. Though there have been some notable examples of 
individual writers who, like Pareto, Durkheim, and Max Weber, 
have brought out various aspects of the interrelations of these 
fields with the problems of economics directly,^ on the whole they 
seem to have remained insulated, so that it can scarcely be said 
that a well-rounded analysis of the problem, which takes account 
of the knowledge available on both sides, is, even in outline, well 
established as the common property of the social sciences. An at- 
tempt to present the outline of such an analysis is the principal 
object of the present paper. 

On the economic side the impression has been widespread that 
a predominantly "self-interested" or "egotistic" theory of the moti- 
vation of economic activities was a logical necessity of economic 
theory. It can be said with confidence that careful analysis of the 
methodological status of economic theory as an analytical scheme 
demonstrates conclusively that this is not the case. There are, to 
be sure, certain necessary assumptions on this level. They are, I 
think, two. On the one hand, economic analysis is empirically 
significant only in so far as there is scope for a certain land of 
"rationality" of action, for the weighing of advantages and disad- 
vantages, of "utility" and "cost," with a view to maximizing the 
difference between them. In so far, for instance, as behavior is 
purely instinctive or traditional it is not susceptible of such anal- 
ysis. On the other hand, its significance rests on there being an 
appreciable scope for the treatment of things and other people, 
that is of resources, in a "utilitarian" spirit, that is, within limits, as 
morally and emotionally neutral means to the ends of economic 
activity rather than only as ends in themselves. In both respects 
there is probably considerable variation between individuals and 
between societies. 

1 See the author's The Structure of Social Action ( New York, 1937 ) for an 
analysis of this aspect of the work of these men. 


But this does not necessarily have anything to do with "egoism" 
in the usual sense. It has already been pointed out that the im- 
mediate goal of economic action in a market economy is the 
maximization of net money advantages or more generally of the dif- 
ference between utility and cost. Choices, so far as they are, in 
the immediate sense, "economically motivated" are, in the first 
instance, oriented to this immediate goal. It certainly is not legiti- 
mate to assume that this immediate goal is a simple and direct 
expression of the ultimate motivational forces of human behavior. 
On the contrary, to a large extent its pursuit is probably compatible 
with a considerable range of variation in more ultimate motiva- 
tions. Indeed, it will be the principal thesis of the subsequent 
analysis that "economic motivation" is not a category of motivation 
on the deeper level at all, but is rather a point at which many 
difiFerent motives may be brought to bear on a certain type of 
situation. Its remarkable constancy and generality is not a result 
of a corresponding uniformity in "human nature" such as egoism 
or hedonism, but of certain features of the structure of social 
systems of action which, however, are not entirely constant but 
subject to institutional variation. 

The theoretical analysis of economics is abstract, probably in 
several different senses. This is crucial to the argument because it 
is precisely within the area of its "constant" data or assumptions 
that the problems of the present discussion arise. To describe the 
kind of abstractness which is relevant here, perhaps the best start- 
ing point is a formula which has been much discussed in eco- 
nomics, but which can be given a much more specific meaning in 
modern sociological terms than it has generally had in economic 
discussions. It is that economic activity takes place within the 
"institutional" framework of a society; economic behavior is con- 
cretely a phase of institutional behavior. 

Institutions, or institutional patterns, in the terms which will 
be employed here, are a principal aspect of what is, in a general- 
ized sense, the social structure. They are normative patterns which 
define what are felt to be, in the given society, proper, legitimate, 
or expected modes of action or of social relationship. Among the 
various types of normative patterns which govern action there are 
two primary criteria which distinguish those of institutional sig- 
nificance. In the first place, they are patterns which are supported 
by common moral sentiments; conformity with them is not only a 


matter of expediency, but of moral duty. In the second place, 
they are not "utopian" patterns which, however highly desirable 
they may be regarded, are not lived up to except by a few, or by 
others in exceptional circumstances. Thus the extreme altruism of 
the Sermon of the Mount or extreme heroism are very widely 
approved but the ordinary individual is not expected to live up to 
them. When, on the other hand, a pattern is institutionalized, con- 
formity with it is part of the legitimate expectations of the society, 
and of the individual himself. The typical reaction to infraction 
of an institutional rule is moral indignation of the sort which involves 
a feeling of being "let down." A person in a fiduciary position who 
embezzles funds, or a soldier who deserts is not doing what others 
feel they have a right to expect them to do. 

Institutional patterns in this sense are part of the social struc- 
ture in that, so far as the patterns are effectively institutionalized, 
action in social relationships is not random, but is guided and 
canalized by the requirements of the institutional patterns. So far 
as they are mandatory they in a sense directly "determine" action, 
otherwise they set limits beyond which variation is not permissible 
and sets up corrective forces. 

Seen from this point of view, institutional structure is a mode 
of the "integration" of the actions of the component individuals. 
There are, it may be suggested, three principal ways in which it 
is functionally necessary that such a social system should be inte- 
grated if it is to remain stable and avoid internal conflicts which 
would be fatal to it. In the first place, the different possible modes 
of action and of relationship become differentiated. Some are 
socially acceptable and approved, others reprehensible and disap- 
proved or even directly prohibited. But in any case this system of 
differentiated actions and relationships needs to be organized. 
Stability is possible only if within limits people do the right thing 
at the right time and place. It is furthermore exceedingly impor- 
tant that others should know what to expect of a given individual. 
Thus in all societies we find institutional definitions of roles, of 
the things given people are expected to do in different contexts 
and relationships. Each individual usually has a number of dif- 
ferent roles, but the combinations of different roles vary with 
different "social types" of individuals. 

Secondly, it is inherent in the nature of society that some indi- 
viduals should be in a position to exercise influence over others. 


Again it is necessary that there should be a difiFerentiation between 
those modes of influence which are held permissible or desirable, 
and those which should be discouraged or even forbidden. Where 
the lines will be drawn will differ with the social roles of the 
persons concerned. The compulsion exercised by police officers 
will not be permitted to private individuals, for instance. Certain 
modes of influencing others, often regardless of the willingness of 
the others to be influenced, are often necessary to the performance 
of certain roles. Where such modes of influence are institutionally 
legitimized they may be called "authority." On the other hand, it 
is often socially necessary or desirable that some or all individuals 
should be protected from modes of influence which others would 
otherwise be in a position to exert. Such institutionalized protection 
against undesirable or unwanted influence may be called "rights." 
An institutionalized structure of authority and rights is a feature 
of every integrated social system.^ 

Finally, action generally is teleologically oriented to the attain- 
ment of goals and to conformity with norms. It is inherent in its 
structure that acts, qualities, achievements, etc., should be valued. 
It makes a difference on a scale of evaluation what a person is and 
what he does. This necessity of evaluation implies in turn the 
necessity of ranking, in the first place, qualities and achievements 
which are directly comparable; thus, if physical strength is valued, 
persons will in so far be ranked in order of their physical strength. 
Secondarily, this means that persons, as such, will be evaluated, 
and that where a plurality of persons are involved, they will, how- 
ever roughly, be ranked. It is of crucial importance that the stand- 
ards of ranking and their modes of application should, in the same 
social system, be relatively well integrated. This third aspect of 
institutional structure, then, is stratification. Every social system 
will have an institutionalized scale of stratification by which the 
different individuals in the system are ranked. 

This institutional structure is found in social relationships gen- 
erally and is as important in the sphere of economic activities as 
in any other. Every function at all well established in the economic 
division of labor comes to involve institutionally defined roles such 
as those of 'Taanker," "business executive," "craftsman," "farmer," or 
what not. In connection with such a role there is a pattern of insti- 
tutionally defined expectations, both positive and negative. Certain 

^ Whether they are legally enforceable is secondary for present purposes. 


of these economic roles involve institutional authority such as that 
of an employer in the role of supervisor over his workers. Again, 
in various respects, persons in economic roles are subject to the 
authority of others, notably of public oflBcials in matters of taxation, 
labor legislation, and many other fields. They are institutionally 
expected to obey and usually recognize this authority. Persons in 
economic roles, further, enjoy certain institutionally protected 
rights, notably those we sum up as the institution of property, and 
in turn are institutionally expected to respect certain rights of 
others, to refrain, for instance, from coercing others or perpetrating 
fraud upon them. Finally, each of them has a place in the system 
of stratification of the community. By virtue of his occupation and 
his status in it, of his income, of his "reputation," and various other 
things, he is ranked high or low as the case may be. 

So far an institutional structure has been described as an "objec- 
tive" entity which as such would seem to have little to do with 
motivation. The terms in which it has been described, however, 
clearly imply a very close relation. Such a structure is, indeed, 
essentially a relatively stable mode of the organization of human 
activities, and of the motivational forces underlying them. Any 
considerable alteration in tlie latter or in their mutual relations 
would greatly alter it. 

When we turn to the subjective side it turns out that one prin- 
cipal set of elements consists in a system of moral sentiments. In- 
stitutional patterns depend, for their maintenance in force, on the 
support of the moral sentiments of the majority of the members of 
the society. These sentiments are above all manifested in the 
reaction of spontaneous moral indignation when another seriously 
violates an institutional pattern. It may indeed be suggested that 
punishment and sanctions are to a considerable extent important 
as expressions of these sentiments, and as symbolizing their sig- 
nificance. The corresponding reaction to violation on the actor's own 
part is a feeling of guilt or shame which, it is important to note, 
may often be largely repressed. On the positive side the corre- 
sponding phenomenon is the sense of obligation. The well-integrated 
personality feels an obligation to live up to expectations in his 
variously defined roles, to be a "good boy" to be a "good student," 
an "efficient worker," and so on. He similarly has and feels obliga- 
tions to respect legitimate authority in others, and to exercise it 
properly in his own case. He is obligated to respect the rights of 


others, and on occasion it may be a positive obligation from moral 
motives to insist on respect for his own rights. Finally, he is 
obligated to recognize the status of others with respect to strati- 
fication, especially, but by no means wholly, of those superior to 
himself. The element of obligation in this sense is properly treated 
as "disinterested." It is a matter of "identification" with a general- 
ized pattern, conformity with which is "right." Within compara- 
tively wide limits his personal interests in the matter in other 
respects are irrelevant. 

The prevailing evidence is that the deeper moral sentiments are 
inculcated in early childhood and are deeply built into the struc- 
ture of personality itself. They are, in the deeper senses, beyond 
the range of conscious decision and control, except perhaps, in 
certain critical situations, and even when consciously repudiated, 
still continue to exert their influence through repressed guilt feel- 
ings and the like. In situations of strain these may well come to be 
in radical opposition to the self-interested impulses of the actor; 
he is the victim of difficult conflicts and problems of conscience. 
But there is evidence of a strong tendency, the more that people 
are integrated with an institutional system, for these moral senti- 
ments to be closely integrated with the self-interested elements, 
to which we must now turn. 

If the above analysis is correct, the fact that concretely eco- 
nomic activities take place in a framework of institutional patterns 
would imply that, typically, such disinterested elements of moti- 
vation play a role in the determination of their course. This is not 
in the least incompatible with the strict requirements of economic 
theory for that requires only that, as between certain alternatives, 
choice will be made in such a way as to maximize net money 
advantages to the actor, or to the social unit on behalf of which he 
acts. Both in the ultimate goals to which the proceeds will be ap- 
plied, and in the choice of means there is no reason why disinter- 
ested moral sentiments should not be involved. But there is equally 
no reason why, on a comparable level, elements of self-interest 
should not be involved also. Indeed, the distinction is not one of 
classes of concrete motives, but of types of element in concrete 
motives. In the usual case these elements are intimately inter- 

There is, furthermore, no general reason to assume that "self- 
interest" is a simple and obvious thing. On the contrary, it appears 


to be a distinctly complex phenomenon, and probably the analyti- 
cal distinctions to be made respecting it are relative to the level of 
analysis undertaken, hence to the problems in hand. Only such 
distinctions will here be made as seem essential to the main out- 
line of a theory of motivation of economic activity. 

The most general term which can be applied to this phase of 
motivation is, perhaps, "satisfaction." There is an interest in things 
and modes of behavior which yields satisfactions. One of die im- 
portant components of this is undoubtedly "self-respect." So far, 
that is, as moral norms are genuinely built into the structure of 
personality the individual's own state of satisfaction is dependent 
on the extent to which he lives up to them. This is above all true 
with respect to the standards of his various roles, particularly, in 
our context, the occupational role, and to the place he feels he 
"deserves" in the scale of stratification. 

Closely related to self-respect, indeed in a sense its complement, 
is what may, following W. I. Thomas, be called "recognition." To 
have recognition in this sense is to be the object of moral respect 
on the part of others whose opinion is valued. To be approved of, 
admired, or even envied, are flattering and satisfying to any ego. 
As the works of Mead and others have shown, the relations of self- 
respect and recognition are extremely intimate and reciprocally 
related. The loss of respect on the part of those from whom it is 
expected is one of the severest possible blows to the state of satis- 
faction of the individual. 

Third, there is the element which lies closest to the pattern of 
economic analysis, the fact that we have an interest in a given 
complex of activities or relationships for "what we can get out of 
them." That is, they are, to a certain extent, treated as a means to 
something altogether outside themselves. This is the classic pattern 
for the interpretation of the significance of money returns. The 
pattern involves the assumption that there are certain "wants" 
which exist altogether independently of the activities by which the 
means to satisfy them are acquired. Though unjustified as a gen- 
eral interpretation of economic motivation, such a dissociation 
does, on a relative level, exist and is of considerable importance. 
In this, as in many other respects, the prevailing economic scheme 
is not simply wrong, but has not been properly related to other 


Fourth, there is another element which has played a prominent 
part in the history of economic thought—pleasure." This may be 
conceived as a relatively specific feeling-tone which is subject to 
interpretation as a manifestation primarily of particular organic 
states. Of course pleasure may be one of the "ulterior" ends to 
which economic activities are means— it is certainly not, as the 
hedonists would have it, the sole one. It may also be present, and 
often is, in the actual activities performed in the pursuance of 
economically significant roles; most of us actually enjoy a good 
deal of om- work. One fact, however, is of crucial significance. 
Pleasure, or its sources, is not, as the classical hedonists assumed, 
a biologically given constant, but is a function of the total personal 
equilibrium of the individual. It does seem to have a particularly 
close connection with organic states, but undoubtedly these in turn 
are greatly influenced by the emotional states of the individual, 
and through these, by the total complex of his social relationships 
and situation. Hence pleasure, as an element of motivation, can 
only in a highly relative sense be treated as an independent focus 
of the orientation of action. 

Finally, there is still a fifth element in "satisfactions" which, 
though perhaps less directly associated with the economic field 
than with others, should be mentioned. Men have attitudes of 
"affection" toward other human beings, and somewhat similar at- 
titudes toward certain kinds of inanimate objects. The "aesthetic 
emotion" very likely contains in this sense a component which is 
distinguishable from pleasure, by which one, for instance, can say 
"I am exceedingly fond of that picture." In the case of other 
human beings, however, this affectional attitude is often reciprocal 
and we may speak of a genuine egotistic interest in the affectional 
"response" of another, again to use Thomas's term. It is true tliat 
the institutional patterns governing economic relationships are, in 
our society, largely "impersonal" in a sense which excludes 
response from direct institutional sanction. It does, however, come 
in in at least two important ways. On the one hand, it is very 
prominent in the uses to which the proceeds of economic activity 
are put, constituting for one thing a prominent element of family 
relationships. On the other hand, on a non-institutional level, re- 
sponse relationships are often of great importance, concretely in 
the occupational situation and motivation of individuals. Thus a 


very important motive in doing "good work" may be its bearing on 
friendship with certain occupational associates. 

In all these respects there is a further fundamental aspect of 
the motivational significance of a great many things which the 
traditional economic analysis does not take into account. Many of 
the most important relations of things to action lie in the fact that 
they are associated with one or more of these elements as symbols. 
An excellent example is that of money income. From the point of 
view of valuation it is probably fair to say that the most funda- 
mental basis of ranking and status in the economic world is 
occupational achievement and the underlying ability. But for a 
variety of reasons it is difficult to judge people directly in these 
terms alone. Above all, in view of the technical heterogeneity of 
achievements it is difficult to compare achievements in different 
fields. But in a business economy it is almost inevitable that to 
a large extent money earnings should come to be accepted as 
a measure of such achievements and hence money income is, to a 
large extent, effectually accepted as a symbol of occupational 
status. It is hence of great importance in the context of recognition. 

Once the institutional pattern in question comes to be thoroughly 
established, though it continues to be in part dependent on the 
moral sentiments underlying it, its maintenance by no means 
depends exclusively on these. There is, rather, a process of com- 
plex interaction on two levels at once, on the one hand between the 
disinterested and self-interested elements in the motivation of any 
given individual, on the other between the different individuals. 
The first aspect of interaction has already been outlined in dis- 
cussing the content of the concept "self-interest." The general 
tendency of the second process, so far as the institutional system 
is integrated, is to reinforce conformity with the main institutional 
patterns through mechanisms which work out in such a way that, 
in his relations with others, the self-interest of any one individual 
is promoted by adhering to the institutional patterns. 

It has already been pointed out that the normal reaction of a 
well-integrated individual to an infraction of an institutional rule 
is one of moral indignation. The effect of this is to change an other- 
wise or potentially favorable attitude toward the individual in 
question to an unfavorable one. There are, of course, many differ- 
ent variations of degree between the various possible effects of 
this. It may be a matter simply of lessened willingness to "co- 
operate" in the achievement of the first person's ends in ways in 


which the second is useful or necessary as a means. In the more 
extreme instances it may involve positive obstruction of his activi- 
ties. It will certainly mean a lessening of the respect which is 
involved in recognition; again in the more extreme cases it may 
mean positive action to belittle and run down the ofiFender's repu- 
tation and standing, dismissal from positions, withdrawal of honors, 
and the like. 

It would be unusual, except in very extreme cases for direct 
pleasures to be involved, certainly in a physical sense. But in 
various subtle ways the disapproval of others, especially when it 
is intense enough to be translated into direct action, afiFects the 
sources of pleasure to which an individual has become accustomed. 
Finally, so far as people on whom he counts for response share 
the moral sentiments he has offended, this response, notably in 
"friendship," is likely to be lessened. In the extreme case again a 
friendly attitude may be transformed into a directly unfriendly 
one, indeed on occasion into bitter hatred. 

Thus, even without taking account of the possible internal con- 
flicts which violation of his own moral sentiments brings about, it 
can be seen that a very substantial component of the individual's 
own self-interest is directly dependent on his enjoying the favor- 
able attitudes of others with whom he comes into contact in his 
situation. Even if he continues to "make money" as before, his loss 
from the point of view particularly of recognition and respect may 
be of crucial importance, and in the long run probably his income 
is (the better integrated the situation the more so) bound up with 
his maintenance of good relations with others in this sense. 

It is now possible to bring out what is, in many respects, the 
most crucial point of the whole analysis. It is true that it has been 
argued that it is impossible to treat the self-interested elements of 
human motivation as alone decisive in influencing behavior, in the 
economic sphere or any other. But it is not this thesis which con- 
stitutes the most radical departure from a kind of common-sense 
view which is widely accepted among economists, as among other 
normal human beings. It is rather that the content of self-inter- 
ested motivation itself, the specific objects of human "interests," 
cannot, for the purposes of any broad level of generalization in 
social science, be treated as a constant. That is, not only must the 
fact that people have interests be taken into account in explaining 
their behavior, but the fact that there are variations in their spe- 
cific content as well. And these variations cannot, as economic 


theory has tended to do, be treated at random relative to the social 
structure, inckiding in a very important sense that of the economic 
sphere of society itself. For it is precisely around social institutions 
that, to a very large extent, the content of self-interest is organ- 
ized. Indeed, this organization of what are the otherwise, within 
broad limits, almost random potentialities of the self-interested 
tendencies of human action into a coherent system, may be said, 
in broad terms, to be one of the most important functions of insti- 
tutions. Without it, society could scarcely be an order, in the 
sense in which we know it, at all. It thus depends on the standards 
according to which recognition is accorded, on the specific lines 
of action to which pleasure has become attached, on what have 
come to be generally accepted symbols of prestige and status, 
what, in concrete terms, will be the direction taken by self-inter- 
ested activity and hence what its social consequences will be. 
Again this applies to what are ordinarily thought of as "economic" 
interests just as it does to any others. 

The most convincing evidence in support of this thesis is to be 
derived from a broad comparative study of different institutional 
structures. Such a comparative study can go far to explain why, 
for instance, such a large proportion of Indian Brahmans have been 
interested in certain kinds of mystical and ascetic religious behavior, 
why so many of the upper classes in China have devoted them- 
selves to education in the Confucian classics looking toward an 
official career as a Mandarin, or why the members of European 
aristocracies have looked down upon "trade" and been concerned, 
if they have followed an occupational career at all, so much with 
the armed forces of the state, which have counted specifically as 
"gentlemen's" occupations. There is, unfortunately, no space to 
go into this evidence. 

It may be useful, however, to cite one conspicuous example 
from our own society, that of the difference between business and 
the learned professions. There are important differences between 
the institutional patterns governing these two sectors of the higher 
part of our occupational sphere, and perhaps the most conspicuous 
of these touches precisely the question of self-interest. The com- 
monest formula in terms of which the difference is popularly 
expressed is the distinction between "professionalism" and "com- 
mercialism." Now in the immediately obvious sense the essence 
of professionalism consists in a series of limitations on the aggres- 
sive pursuit of self-interest. Thus medical men are forbidden, in 


the codes of medical ethics, to advertise their services. They are 
expected, in any individual case, to treat a patient regardless of 
the probability that he will pay, that he is a good "credit risk." 
They are forbidden to enter into direct and explicit price compe- 
tition with other physicians, to urge patients to come to them on 
the ground that they will provide the same service at a cheaper 
rate. It is true that, in all this, infraction of the professional code 
would, in general, permit the physician to reap an immediate 
financial advantage which adherence to the code deprives him of. 
But it does not follow that, in adhering to the code as well as they 
do, medical men are actually acting contrary to their self-interest 
in a sense in which business men habitually do not. 

On the contrary, the evidence which has been accumulated in 
the course of a study of medical practice^ points to a quite differ- 
ent conclusion, which is that a principal component of the differ- 
ence is a difference on the level of the institutional pattern, rather 
than, as is usually thought, a difference of typical motivation.* In 
both cases the self-interest of the typical individual is on the whole 
harnessed to keeping the institutional code which is dominant in 
his own occupational sphere. It is true that by advertising, by 
refusing to treat indigent patients, or in certain circumstances by 
cutting prices, the individual physician could reap an immediate 
financial advantage. But it is doubtful whether, where the institu- 
tional structure is working at all well, it is from a broader point 
of view to his self-interest to do so. For this would provoke a 
reaction, in the first instance among his professional colleagues, 
secondarily among the public, which would be injurious to his 
professional standing. If he persisted in such practices his profes- 
sional status would suffer, and in all probability various more tan- 
gible advantages, such as habitual recommendations of patients 
by other physicians, would disappear or be greatly lessened. It is 
not suggested that the average physician thinks of it in these 
terms; for the most part it probably never occurs to him that he 

3 As yet unpublished. 

* This is by no means meant to imply that there are no differences of typical 
motivation. Such differences could be accounted for either on the ground that 
the two occupational groups operated selectively on personality types within 
the population, or that they influenced the motivation of people in them. The 
essential point is that the treatment of the concrete differences of behavior 
as direct manifestations of differences of ultimate motivation alone is clearly 
illegitimate in that it fails to take account of the institutional factor. It is quite 
possible that the institutionalization of financial self-interest does, however, tend 
to cultivate a kind of egoism and aggressiveness in the typical business man 
which is less likely to be created in a professional environment. 


might consider deviating from the code. But the underlying control 
mechanisms are present none the less. 

In business the "definition of the situation" is quite different. 
Advertising, credit rating, and price competition are, for the most 
part, institutionally accepted and approved practices. It is not only 
not considered reprehensible to engage in them, but it is part of 
the institutional definition of the role of the "good" business man 
to do so. 

It is true that in the professions money income is one of the 
important symbols of high professional standing. The more 
successful physicians both charge higher fees and receive larger 
total incomes. But there is still an important difference. There are 
in the first place important exceptions to the regularity of this 
relationship. There is probably nothing in the business world to 
correspond to the very high professional prestige of the "full-time" 
staff of the most eminent medical schools, even though their aver- 
age income is markedly lower than that of the comparably distin- 
guished men in private practice. There are probably very few 
resident physicians or surgeons in the teaching hospitals associated 
with such institutions as the Harvard Medical School who would 
refuse an opportimity to go on the full-time staff in order to enter 
private practice, even though the latter promised much larger 
financial returns. 

But, beyond this, in business money returns are not only a 
symbol of status, they are to a considerable extent a direct measure 
of the success of business activities, indeed, in view of the extreme 
heterogeneity of the technical content of these, the only common 
measure. This situation is, however, being rapidly modified by the 
large-scale corporate organization of the business world. There 
"profit" applies only to the firm as a whole, for the individual it is 
primarily his office and his salary which count. This development 
is greatly narrowing the gap, in these respects, between business 
and the professions.^ 

It is thus suggested that the much talked of "acquisitiveness" of 
a capitalistic economic system is not primarily, or even to any very 
large extent a matter of the peculiar incidence of self-interested 
elements in the motivation of the typical individual, but of a 

5 This development involves a major change in the institutional setting of 
the problem of self-interest. Even though, as will be noted presently, in indi- 
vidual market competition, profit is an institutionally defined goal rather than a 
motive, it makes a considerable difference whether, as the older economists as- 


peculiar institutional structure which has grown up in the Western 
world. There is reason to believe that the situation with respect to 
motivation is a great deal more similar in this area to that in other 
parts of our occupational structure which are not marked by this 
kind of acquisitiveness than is generally supposed. 

Our occupational structure is above all one in which status is 
accorded, to a high degree, on the basis of achievement, and of 
the abilities which promise achievement, in a specialized function or 
group of functions. One may, then, perhaps say that the whole 
occupational sphere is dominated by a single fundamental goal, 
that of "success." The content of this common goal will, of course, 
vary with the specific character of the functional role. But what- 
ever this may be, it will involve both interested and disinterested 
elements. On the disinterested side will be above all two compo- 
nents, a disinterested devotion to "good work" which must be 
defined according to the relevant technical criteria, and a disinter- 
ested acceptance of the moral patterns which govern this activity 
with respect to such matters as respecting the rights of others. On 
the side of self-interest in most cases the dominant interest is 
probably that in recognition, in high standing in the individual's 
occupational group. This will be sought both directly and through 
various more or less indirect symbols of status, among which money 
income occupies a prominent place. Part of the prominence of its 
place is undoubtedly a result of the fact that a business economy 
has become institutionalized in our society.^ 

surned, the consequences of a business decision will react directly on the personal 
pocketbook of the person making the decision, or only on that of the organiza- 
tion on behalf of which he decides. The position of the business executive thus 
becomes to a very large extent a fiduciary position. There is little difference be- 
tween the considerations which will influence the manager of an investment 
trust, especially of a conservative type, and the treasurer of a university or a 
hospital, even though one is engaged in profit-making business, the other is a 
trustee of an "altruistic" foundation. In both cases the individual concerned has 
certain obUgations and responsibilities, and unless the situation is badly inte- 
grated institutionally, it will on the whole, though perhaps in somewhat different 
ways, be to his self-interest to live up to them relatively well. 

6 To avoid all possible misunderstanding it may be noted again that no 
claim is made that there are no important differences of motivation, above all 
that the business situation may not cultivate certain types of "mercenary" 
orientation. The sole important purpose of the present argument is to show 
that the older type of discussion which jiunped directly from economic analysis 
to ultimate motivation is no longer tenable. The institutional patterns always 
constitute one crucial element of the problem, and the more ultimate problems 
of motivation can only be approached through an analysis of their role, not by 
ignoring it. 


The traditional doctrine of economics that action in a business 
economy was primarily motivated by the "rational pursuit of self- 
interest" has been shown, in part to be wrong, in part to cover up 
a complexity of elements and their relationships of which the 
people who have used this formulation have for the most part 
been unaware. It may be hoped that the above exposition has, 
schematic as it has been, laid the foundations, in broad outline, of 
an account of the matter which will both do better justice to some 
of the empirical problems which confront the economist and will 
enable him to co-operate more fruitfully with the neighboring 
sciences of human behavior instead of, as has been too much the 
tendency in the past, insulating himself from them in a kind of 
hermetically sealed, closed system of his own. 

It would, however, be unfortunate to give the impression that 
this account is by any means a complete one, suitable for all pur- 
poses, In closing, a further aspect of the problem which is of great 
empirical importance, but could not receive full discussion in the 
space available, may be briefly mentioned. The above analysis is 
couched in terms of the conception of an institutionally integrated 
social system. It is only in such a case that the essential identity 
of the direction in which the disinterested and the self-interested 
elements of motivation impel human action, of which so much has 
been made in this discussion, holds. Actual social systems are, in 
this sense, integrated to widely varying degrees; in some cases the 
integrated type is a fair approximation to reality, in others it is 
very wide of the mark. But even in developing a theory which is 
more adequate to the latter type of situation the integrated type 
is a most important analytical starting point. 

There is a very wide range of possible circumstances which may 
lead individuals, in pursuing their self-interest, to deviate from 
institutionally approved patterns to a greater or less degree. Some- 
times in the course of his life-history a far from perfect integration 
of personality is achieved, and the individual has tendencies of 
self-interest which conflict with his institutional status and role. 
Sometimes the social structure itself is poorly integrated so that 
essentially incompatible things are expected of the same individual. 
One of the commonest types of this structural malintegration is 
the case where the symbols of recognition become detached from 
the institutionally approved achievements, where people receive 
recognition without the requisite achievements and conversely, those 


with the achievements to their credit fail of the appropriate recog- 
nition. The result of all these various failures of integration is to 
place the individual in a conflict situation. He is, on the one hand, 
in conflict with himself. He feels urged to pursue his self-interest 
in ways which are incompatible with tlie standards of behavior in 
which he himself was brought up and which have been too deeply 
inculcated for him ever to throw ofiF completely. On the other 
hand, objectively he is placed in a dilemma. For instance, he may 
live up to standards he values and face the loss of recognition and 
its symbols. Or he may seek external "success" but only by violating 
his own standards and those of the people he most respects. Usually 
both internal and external conflicts are involved, and there is no 
really happy solution. 

The usual psychological reaction to such conflict situations is 
a state of psychological "insecurity." Such a state of insecurity in 
turn is well known to produce a variety of different more or less 
"neurotic" reactions by which the individual seeks to solve his con- 
flicts and re-establish his security. One of the commonest of these 
is an increased aggressiveness in the pursuit of personal ambitions 
and self-interest generally. 

It has been maintained that the institutionalization of self- 
interest accounts for one very important element of what is usually 
called the "acquisitiveness" of a capitalistic society. But it is far 
from accounting for all of it. Ours is a society which in a number 
of respects is far from being perfectly integrated. A very large 
proportion of the population is in this sense insecure to an impor- 
tant degree. It is hence suggested that another component of this 
acquisitiveness, especially of the kind which is most offensive to 
our moral sentiments, is essentially an expression of this widespread 
insecurity. Elton Mayo^ coined an appropriate phrase for this 
aspect of the situation when he inverted Tawney's famous title and 
spoke of the "Acquisitiveness of a Sick Society." But it should be 
noted that this is an element which, along with the institutional- 
ization of self-interest, is not adequately taken account of by the 
formula of the "rational pursuit of self-interest." 

Many other points could doubtless be raised to show the incom- 
pleteness of the above outline of this problem. There is no doubt 
that in a great many respects its formulation will have to be altered 

■J^ In his Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization (New York, 1933). 
This type of element is probably prominently involved in the widespread com- 
plaints about the prevalence of "commercialism" in medicine. 


as well as refined as our knowledge of the phenomena accumulates, 
as is the fate of all scientific conceptual schemes. In addition to 
whatever merit it may possess as a solution of this particular range 
of empirical problems, it is important for another reason. So far as 
it is substantiated it will help to demonstrate that many problems 
can be more fruitfully attacked by collaboration between the 
various social disciplines on a theoretical level than they can by 
any one of them working alone, no matter how well established 
its theoretical scheme may be for a certain range of problems. 


An Analytical Approach to the 
Theory of Social Stratification 

SOCIAL STRATIFICATION IS regarded here as the di fferential ranking 
o£-theJimnan individuals who compose a given social system and 
t heir treatm ent as superior and inferior relative to one another in 
Q ertain soc ially important respects. Our first task is to discuss why 
such differential ranking is considered a really fundamental phe- 
nomenon of social systems and what are the respects in which 
such ranking is important. Rank ing is one of many possible bases 
on which individuals may be differentiated.^ It is only in so far as 
differences are treated as involving or related to particular kinds 
of social superiority and inferiority that they are relevant to the 
theory of stratification. 

1 Some writers (cf. P. A. Sorokin, Social Mobility [New York, 1927] ) have 
distinguished what is here referred to as stratification as the "vertical" axis of 
differentiation of individuals from the "horizontal" axis. Correspondingly, when 
individuals change their status in the differentiated system, reference is made 
to vertical and horizontal mobility. This usage is dangerous. It states the 
analytical problem in terms of a two-dimensional spatial analogy. On the one 
hand, because stratification constitutes one important range of differentiation, 
it does not follow that all others can be satisfactorily treated as a single residual 
category. Thus sex differentiation, occupational differences apart from their 
relation to stratification, and differences of religious affiliation should not on a 
priori grounds be treated as if tliey all involved only values of a single variable 
with a common unit of variation, "horizontal distance." On the other hand, it is 
equally dangerous to assume a priori that stratification itself can be adequately 
described as variation on a single quantitative continuum, as the analogy of a 
dimension of rectilinear space suggests. There is a quantitative element involved 
in stratification as in most other social phenomena. This is inherent in its concep- 
tion as a matter of ranking. But to assume that this exhausted the matter would 
be to assume that only the numbers and intervals were significant, which is by no 
means the case. As will appear below, there are also variations in the content 
of the criteria by which ranks are assigned which cannot, in the present state 
of knowledge, be reduced to points on a single quantitative continuum. 

While of particular concern at present in relation to stratification, it may be 
pointed out that these considerations apply at the same time to any uncritical 
use of such concepts as "social space" and "social distance." The burden of 
proof in cases of their use should always be placed on their relevance to social 
facts and analytical schemes verified in the social field, not on the logic of 
deductions from analogies to physical space and distance. 


Central for the purposes of this discussion is the differential 
evaluation in the moral sense of individuals as units. Moral superi- 
ority is the object of a certain empirically specific attitude quality 
of "respect," while its antithesis is the object of a peculiar attitude 
of "disapproval" or even, in the more extreme cases, of "indig- 

In one sense, perhaps, the selection of moral evaluation as the 
central criterion of the ranking involved in stratification might be 
considered arbitrary. It is, however, no more and no less arbitrary 
than, for instance, the selection of distance as a basic category for 
describing the relations of bodies in a mechanical system. Its selec- 
tion is determined by the place which moral evaluation holds in 
a generalized conceptual scheme, the "theory of action." The only 
necessary justification of such a selection at the outset is to show 
that the categories are applicable. In our ordinary treatment of 
social rank, moral evaluations are in fact prominently involved. The 
normal reaction to a conspicuous error in ranking is at least in part 
one of moral indignation,— either a person thinks he is "unjustly" 
disparaged by being put on a level with those who are really his 
inferiors, or his real superiors feel "insulted" by having him, in the 
relevant respects, treated as their equal.^ 

Consideration of certain aspects of social systems described in 
terms of the theory of action shows readily why stratification is a 
fundamental phenomenon. In the first place, moral evaluation is a 
crucial aspect of action in social systems. It is a main aspect of 
the broader phenomenon of "normative orientation," since not all 
normative patterns which are relevant to action are the object of 
moral sentiments. The second crucial fact is the importance of the 
human individual as a unit of concrete social systems. If both 
human individuals as units and moral evaluation are essential to 
social systems, it follows that these individuals will be evaluated 
as units and not merely with respect to their particular qualities, 

2 Perhaps Durkheim has done more than any other social theorist to make 
this phenomenon clear and to analyze its implications (see especially L'Edu- 
cation morale [Paris: F. Alcan, 1925], I, and Les Formes elementaires do la 
vie religieuse [Paris: F. Alcan, 1912; 2d ed., 1925], chap, iii): It is also in- 
volved in Max Weber's concept ol legitimacy {Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 
[Tubingen: Verlag von J. C. B. Mohr, 1925], chap, i, sees. 5, 6, 7). It is 
discussed and analyzed in Talcott Parsons, The Structure of Social Action, 
(New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1937), esp. Chaps. ,x, xi, and xvii. 

3 An excellent recent example of tliis is found in the results reported by 
F. J. Roethlisberger and W. A. Dickson, Management and the Worker (Cam- 
bridge, Mass., 1939), Part III, chap. xv. 


acts, etc. Furthermore, this cannot merely be a matter of any given 
individual A's having moral attitudes toward any other given 
individual B, but it implies ranking. Unless there is to be a func- 
tionally impossible state of lack of integration of the social system, 
the evaluations by A and B of their associate C must come some- 
where near agreeing; and their relative ranking of C and D must 
broadly agree where the necessity for comparison arises.^ The 
theoretical possibility exists that not only any two individuals but 
all those in the system should be ranked as exact equals. This pos- 
sibility, however, has never been very closely approached in any 
known large-scale social system. And, even if it were, that would 
not disprove the fundamental character of stratification, since it 
would not be a case of "lack" of stratification but of a particular 
limiting type. Stratification, as here treated, is an aspect of the 
concept of the structure of a generalized social system.^ 

There is, in any given social system, an actual system of ranking 
in terms of moral evaluation But this implies in some sense an 
integrated set of standards according to which the evaluations are, 
or are supposed to be, made. Since a set of standards constitutes 
a normative pattern, the actual system will not correspond exactly 
to the pattern. The actual system of effective superiority and in- 
feriority relationships, as far as moral sanction is claimed for it, 
will hence be called the system of social stratification. The norma- 
tive pattern, on the other hand, will be called the scale of strati- 

Since the scale of stratification is a pattern characterized by 
moral authority which is integrated in terms of common moral 
sentiments, it is normally part of the institutional pattern of the 
social system. Its general status and analysis falls into the theory 
of social institutions, and it is in these terms that it will be analyzed 

^ The concept "integration" is a fundamental one in the theory of action. 
It is a mode of relation of the units of a system by virtue of which, on the one 
hand, they act so as collectively to avoid disrupting the system and making it im- 
possible to maintain its stability, and, on the other hand, to "co-operate" to 
promote its functioning as a unity (cf. Parsons, op. cit.) 

5 A generalized social system is a conceptual scheme, not an empirical 
phenomenon. It is a logically integrated system of generalized concepts of em- 
pirical reference in terms of which an indefinite number of concretely differing 
empirical systems can be described and analyzed (see L. J. Henderson, Pareto's 
General Sociology [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935], chap, iv and 
n. 3). 

^ The concept of institutions, like that of stratification, is central to the 
theory of action but cannot be analyzed here ( cf. Parsons, op. cit., chaps, x and 


Before following out the problem of the structural difiFerentiation 
of systems and scales of stratification, and some of the bases and 
functional consequences of such variations, it is well to discuss 
certain aspects of the relation of the individual actor to the scale 
of stratification. The main factual references will be to the type of 
system of stratification where, as in our own, there is a rather wide 
scope for, in Linton's term, the "achievement" of status. 

From the point of view of the theory of action the actor is in part 
a "goal-directed" entity. One important aspect of this orientation 
is to be found in his sentiments as to the moral desirability of these 
goals, though they may, of course, at the same time have other 
sorts of significance. Not only are goals as such the objects of moral 
sentiments but this status is also occupied by persons and their 
attitudes to the actor, by things and their relations to the actor, 
and by social relationships. Many of the most important goals 
cluster about these things. 

Second, any or all of these may have other types of significance 
to the actor than the moral. They may be sources of hedonic satis- 
faction or objects of affectional attitudes. The normal actor is, to 
a significant degree, an "integrated" personality. In general, the 
things he values morally are also the things he "desires" as sources 
of hedonic satisfaction or objects of his aflFection. To be sure, there 
are, concretely, often serious conflicts in this respect, but they 
must be regarded mainly as instances of "deviation" from the 
integrated type. 

Finally, the importance of moral sentiments in action, together 
with the fact that action is directed toward goals, generally implies 
that the normal actor has moral sentiments toward himself and his 
acts. He either has a rather high degree of "self-respect" or in 
some sense or other feels "guilt" or "shame." 

But this actor does not stand alone. He is, to a greater or less 
degree, integrated with other actors in a social system. This means, 
on the one hand, that there is a tendency for the basic moral senti- 
ments to be shared by the different actors in a system in the sense 
that they approve the same basic normative patterns of conduct, 
while on the other, the other individuals become important to 
anyone; what they do, say, or even subjectively think and feel 
cannot be merely indifferent to him. 

Through the differentiation of roles there is a differentiation in 
the specific goals which are morally approved for different indi- 


viduals. But, so far as the society is morally and hence institu- 
tionally integrated, they are all governed by the same more 
generalized pattern. This common pattern is applied on the judg- 
ments of higher and lower as applied to individuals which thus 
form a convenient point of reference for systematizing the norma- 
tive pattern itself. Self-respect, which, it may be said, is in the first 
instance a matter of living up to the moral norms the individual 
himself approves, becomes secondarily a matter of attaining or 
maintaining a position in terms of the scale of stratification. 

This connection is reinforced by the interplay, in an institution- 
ally integrated situation, between moral patterns and the self- 
interested elements of motivation. The actor has interests in the 
attainment of diverse goals, in hedonic satisfactions, in affectional 
response, and also in the recognition or respect of others. It is a 
simple corollary of the integration of moral sentiments that recog- 
nition, or moral respect on the part of others, is dependent on the 
actor on the whole living up to the moral expectations of these 
others. There is, furthermore, an important tendency for recog- 
nition and affectional response to go together. Loss of moral respect 
for a person makes it at least difficult to maintain a high level of 
aflFection for him. Loss of either or both tends also to entail with- 
drawal of sources of hedonic satisfaction as far as these are 
dependent on the actions of others. Failure to conform with insti- 
tutionalized norms thus injures the individual's self-interest by 
leading to withdrawal of help and satisfactions; it can easily lead 
further into the "negative" reactions. Instead of merely refusing 
to be helpful, others may positively obstruct the attainment of 
one's goals. They may actively run down the individual's reputa- 
tion, positively hate him, and seek to hurt him. All this is further 
accentuated by the fact that there is a need to "manifest sentiments 
by external acts,"^ to pass over from hostile sentiments to overt 
action which is detrimental to the interests of the actors. Such 
overt action is all the more likely where the norms in question are 
solidly institutionalized. For, then, other actors have built up 
definite "expectations" of behavior on which they count; and, 
when these expectations are frustrated, they not merely "disap- 
prove" but are directly "injured" and "let down." 

Finally, there is much evidence that the more important moral 
patterns are not simply something which we rationally "accept." 

■^ The title of Class III of Pareto's "residues." 


They have been inculcated from early childhood and are deeply 
"introjected" to form part of the basic structure of the personality 
itself. Violation of them brings with it the risk not only of external 
sanctions but of internal conflict which is often of a really disabling 
|s.^ It is thus not a question of whether institutional behavior is or is 

not self-interested. Indeed, if any given individual can be said to 
seek his own "selfoiiterest" in this sense, it follows that he can do 
so onlv by conforming in some degree to the institut ionalized 
de finition of the situation . Rnt this in turn jneans that he mus t to" 
a large degree be oriented to the scale o f stratificatio n. Thus hj s 
motivation almost certainly becomes focused to a considerable 
^ extent on the attainment of "distinction" or recogn ition by com- 

\ pan son with his fello ^^s. This becomes a most important symbol, 

\ bot h to h ''"^g'=^^f ^^f^ ^f^ ntViprg, of the success or lack of success of 

his efforts in living up to his own and others' expectations in his 
attempt s to conform with valu£ _jiatterns. With particular reference 
to self-interest^^istinctiori "itself in this sense may and often does 
\ become an important direct goal of action. Thus stratification is 

\ one central focus of the^structurali/ation of action in social svsteip s.^ 
That action in a social system should, to a large extent, be 
oriented to a scale of stratification is inherent in the structure of 
social systems of action. But, though this fact is constant, the 
content of the scale, the specific standards and criteria by which 
individuals are ranked, is not uniform for all social systems but 
varies within a wide range. It follows from the definition of a 
scale of stratification adopted here that this variation will be a 
function of the more general variations of value orientation which 
can be shown empirically to exist as between widely differing 
social systems.^ That there are wide variations in values is an 
established fact. In certain particular cases and respects it has also 
been established in what these variations consist. It can, however, 
scarcely be said that knowledge in this field is sufficiently far 
advanced for us to have available a generalized classification of 
possible value orientations which can simply be taken over and 

^ In the degree of its generality, "success" or "distinction" is a goal which 
is comparable with that of wealth or of power. 

'•* For an empirical demonstration of this range of variation of fundamental 
value orientations see especially Max Weber's comparative studies in the soci- 
ology of religion {Gesammelte Aufsatze ztir Rcligionssoziologie [3 vols.]; 
Tiibingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1934). A brief summary of certain aspects of these 
studies is given in Parsons, op. cit., chaps, xiv and xv. 


applied to the special features of the field of stratification. Start- 
ing with the implications of the fact of differential ranking of indi- 
viduals in value terms, it is, however, possible to build up a 
classification of certain of the socially significant respects in which 
they are differentially valued. This classification in turn can be 
related to the classification of value systems in that the latter will 
supply the justifications of why discrimination in each of the re- 
spects treated here (or lack of it) is considered legitimate. The fol- 
lowing is a classification of bases of differential valuation, which 
though by no means final and exhaustive, has been found to be 
relatively concrete and useful. 

1. Membership in a kinship unit.— There is an aspect of differen- 
tial status which is shared with other members of whatever in the 
society in question is an effective kinship unit. Membership in the 
unit may be held by virtue of birth, but it may also be by other 
criteria, as in the case of marriage by personal choice in our own 

2. Personal qualities.— Personal qualities are any of those features 
of an individual which differentiate him from another individual, 
and which may be referred to as a reason for "rating" him higher 
than the other: sex, age, personal beauty, intelligence, strength, 
etc. In so far as personal effort may have an influence on these 
qualities, as in the case of "attractiveness" of women, it tends to 
overlap the next category, "achievements." From the present point 
of view, a quality is what for the purposes in hand is best treated 
as an aspect of what a person "is," not a result of what he "does." 
Concrete qualities range all the way from certain basic things 
altogether beyond personal control, such as the facts of sex and 
age, to those which are mainly achievements. 

3. Achievements.— Achiewements are the valued results of the 
actions of individuals. They may or may not be embodied in 
material objects. It is that which can be ascribed to an individual's 
action or agency in a morally responsible sense. Just as at one 
point achievements shade over into personal qualities, so at 
another they shade into the fourth category. 

4. Po^se^^ions.— Possessions are things, not necessarily material 
objects, "belonging" to an individual which are distinguished by 
the criterion of transferability. Qualities and achievements as such 
are not necessarily transferable, though sometimes, and to a certain 
extent, they may be. Of course, concrete possessions may be the 


results of one's own or another's achievements, and control over 
the qualities of persons may be a possession. 

5. Awf/jorj7f/.— Authority is an institutionally recognized right to 
influence the actions of others, regardless of their immediate per- 
sonal attitudes to the direction of influence. It is exercised by the 
incumbent of an office or other socially defined status such as that 
of parent, doctor, prophet. The kind and degree of authority 
exercised is clearly one of the most important bases of the diflFer- 
ential valuation of individuals. 

6. Power.— It is useful to consider a sixth residual category of 
"power." For this purpose a person possesses power only in so far 
as his ability to influence others and his ability to achieve or to 
secure possessions are not institutionally sanctioned. Persons who 
have power in this sense, however, often do in practice secure a 
certain kind of direct recognition. Furthermore, power may be, 
and generally is, used to acquire legitimized status and symbols 
of recognition. 

The status of any given individual in the system of stratification 
in a society may be regarded as a resultant of the common valu- 
ations underlying the attribution of status to him in each of these 
six respects. ^"^ A classification of types of scales, or rather several 
of them, can then be derived by a consideration of the variation in 
the emphasis placed on each of these categories by a given value 
system, and also of variations in the particular content of each 
category. Attention here will be confined to a very few cases which 
have been of great historical importance. 

One of the most general distinctions which can be easily applied 
to stratification in terms of this scheme is that employed by Linton 
between "achieved" and "ascribed" status.^ ^ The relation of this 
very important dichotomy to this scheme is not simple. In general 
the criteria of ascribed status must be birth or biologically hereditary 
qualities like sex and age. But, in the socially defined role which 
accompanies such a status, there may be very important elements 
of expected achievement and resulting possessions. Other posses- 
sions, of course, may be associated with an ascribed status through 

^0 It is clearly recognized that this proposition constitutes a statement of the 
problem, not a solution of it. 

11 R. Linton, The Study of Man (New York, 1936), chap. vii. "Status" 
is a term referring to any institutionally defined position of an individual in the 
social structure. Position in a scale of stratification is only one aspect of status. 
There is a certain loose tendency to make them coterminous. 


the inheritance of property and the perquisites of office if the latter 
is filled by ascription rather than by achievement. The same is true 
of authority which may, at times, be directly inherited or may be 
attached to an office. 

There is, however, another general relation between the six ele- 
ments of stratificatory status which partly overlaps with the dis- 
tinction of ascribed and achieved status but partly cuts across it. 
That is, in every known society membership in a solidary kinship 
unit is one fundamental element of the place of an individual in a 
system of stratification. There are, however, great variations in 
the way in which this takes place in the relation of kinship to the 
other elements. The basic elements of all kinship structure are 
birth and sexual union. ^- An individual becomes a member of a 
kinship group either by birth in one or by entering into a socially 
legitimized sexual union, a marriage. 

The kinship groups centered about birth and sexual union are 
always to a certain extent "solidary" not only in the sense of mutual 
aid and support but also in the sense that they form units in the 
system of stratification of the society; their members are in certain 
respects treated as "equals" regardless of the fact that by definition 
they must differ in sex and age, and very generally do in other 
qualities, and in achievements, authority, and possessions. Even 
though for these latter reasons they are differently valued to a 
high degree, there is still an element of status which they share 
equally and in respect of which the only differentiation tolerated 
is that involved in the socially approved differences of the sex 
and age status. But as actually used, the term "social class" cer- 
tainly covers a great deal of the ground involved in this basic 
phenomenon— the treatment of kinship groups as solidary units in 
the system of stratification. It is, therefore, proposed to define a 
social class here as consisting of the group of persons who are 
members of effective kinship units which, as units, are approxi- 
mately equally valued. According to this definition, the class struc- 
ture of social systems may differ both in the composition or 
structure of the effective kinship unit or units which are units of 
class structure and in the criteria by which such units are differ- 
entiated from one another. The class status of an individual is 
that rank in the system of stratification which can be ascribed to 

12 See Kingsley Davis and W. L. Warner, "Structural Analysis of Kinship,' 
Amencan Anthropologist, Vol. XXXIX, No. 2. 


him by virtue of those of his kinship ties which bind him to a unit 
in the class structure. Kinship afRhation is thus always a basic 
aspect of the class status of an individual. It does not follow that 
his class status has always been determined by his kinship ties. 
Nor does it follow that the system of ranking of kinship units can 
be explained as derived from factors peculiarly associated with 

There is a type of class structure in which class of birth is a 
suflRcient criterion of an individual's rank in the scale of stratifi- 
cation throughout his life. Because of the close approach to its full 
realization in India, it is convenient to refer to this type as "caste.'* 
It is the case where the only relevant criterion of class status is 
birth and where the structure is one of hierarchically arranged 
hereditary groups, and no acquisition of authority, no qualities, 
achievements, or possessions can change an individual's rank. All 
hierarchical status is ascribed. From this type there is a gradual 
transition to an opposite pole— that in which birth is completely 
irrelevant to class status, the level being determined by some 
combination of the other elements. ^^ 

It is perhaps permissible to refer to this antithetical type as that 
of "equality of opportunity." But it should be noted how very 
formal this conception is. It says nothing whatever about either 
the combination of the other five elements of hierarchical status 
involved or the concrete content of any one. Groups of equals 
must, under a caste system, in the nature of the case be rigidly 
endogamous, for husband and wife are necessarily of the same 
class status. But in a system not resembling the caste type, husband 
and wife need not be rigidly equal by birth, although they become 
so by marriage, and a married couple and their children, even 
though equals at birth, may change their class status during their 
lifetimes. Generally speaking, of course, the more effectively 
solidary the extended kinship groups, especially as between the 
generations, the more closely the total class system will approach 
the caste pole. 

This approach to the analysis of social class may help to throw 
light on some aspects of the class structure of contemporary Ameri- 
can society. Broadly speaking there are two fundamental elements 
in the dominant American scale of stratification. We determine 
status very largely on the basis of achievement witliin an occupa- 

13 This is the limiting type where "class" disappears. 


tional system which is in turn organized primarily in terms of 
universahstic criteria of performance and status within functionally 
specialized fields.^* This dominant pattern of the occupational 
sphere requires at least a relatively high degree of "equality of 
opportunity" which in turn means that status cannot be deter- 
mined primarily by birth or membership in kinship units. 

But this occupational system with its crucial significance in the 
system of stratification coexists in our society with a strong institu- 
tional emphasis on the ties of kinship. The values associated with 
the family, notably the marriage bond and the parent-child rela- 
tionship, are among the most strongly emphasized in our society. 

Absolute equality of opportunity is, as Plato clearly saw, incom- 
patible with any positive solidarity of the family. But such a rela- 
tive equality of opportunity as we have is compatible not with all 
kinds of kinship systems but with certain kinds. There is much 
evidence that our kinship structure has developed in such a direc- 
tion as to leave wide scope for the mobility which our occupation- 
al system requires while protecting the solidarity of the primary 
kinship unit. 

The conjugal family vAXh dependent children, which is the domi- 
nant unit in our society, is, of all types of kinship unit, the one 
which is probably the least exposed to strain and possible break- 
ing-up by the dispersion of its members both geographically and 
with respect to stratification in the modem type of occupational 
hierarchy. Dependent children are not involved in competition for 
status in the occupational system, and hence their achievements 
or lack of them are not likely to be of primary importance to the 
status of the family group as a whole. This reduces the problem 
to that of possible competitive comparison of the two parents. If 
both were equally in competition for occupational status, there 
might indeed be a very serious strain on the solidarity of the fam- 
ily unit, for there is no general reason why they would be likely 
to come out very nearly equally, while, in their capacity of husband 
and wife, it is very important that they should be treated as equals. 

One mechanism which can serve to prevent the kind of "invid- 
ious comparison" between husband and wife which might be dis- 
ruptive of family solidarity is a clear separation of the sex roles 
such as to insure that they do not come into competition with each 

14 For an explanation of these terms in their appHcation to the modem oc- 
cupational system see Talcott Parsons, "The Professions and Social Structure," 
Social Forces, XVII (May, 1939), 457-67, included in tlie present volume. 


other. On the whole, this separation exists in our society, and per- 
haps the above considerations provide part of the explanation of 
why the feminist movement has had such diflBculty in breaking it 

The separation of the sex roles in our society is such as, for the 
most part, to remove women from the kind of occupational status 
which is important for the determination of the status of a family. 
Where married women are employed outside the home, it is, for 
the great majority, in occupations which are not in direct compe- 
tition for status with those of men of their own class. 

Women's interests, and the standards of judgment applied to 
them, run, in our society, far more in the direction of personal 
adornment and the related qualities of personal charm than is the 
case with men. Men's dress is practically a uniform, admitting of 
very slight play for differentiating taste, in marked contrast with 
that of women. This serves to concentrate the judgment and 
valuation of men on their occupational achievements, while the 
valuation of women is diverted into realms outside the occupation- 
ally relevant sphere. This difference appears particularly conspicu- 
ous in the urban middle classes where competition for class status is 
most severe. It is suggested that this phenomenon is functionally 
related to maintaining family solidarity in our class structure. 

The probability of this hypothesis is increased by two sets of 
contrasting facts. On the one hand, in such a society as that of 
eighteenth-century France, where the tone was set by a hereditary 
aristocracy, both sexes were greatly concerned with personal adorn- 
ment and charm. This may in part be due to the fact that, since 
status was mainly hereditary, neither was in severe competition 
for status in such fields as the modern occupations. On the other 
hand, in many rural and peasant societies neither sex seems to be 
oriented in this direction. This suggests that, in our urban society 
with its competitive atmosphere, the qualities and achievements of 
the feminine role have come to be significant as symbols of the 
status of the family, as parts of its "standard of living" which 
reflect credit on it. The man's role, on the other hand, is primarily 
to determine the status of his family by "finding his level" in the 
occupational sphere.^^ 

1^' Thorstein Veblen in The Theory of the Leisure Class (New York: Mac- 
millan Co., 1899) called attention to some of the relevant features of the role 
of women but did not relate it in this way to the functional equilibrium of the 
social structure. Moreover, what Veblen means by "conspicuous consumption" 
is only one aspect of the feminine role and one which is associated more with 
certain elements of malintegration than with the basic structure itself. 


From the fact that kinship affiHation is the primary criterion of 
the class status of an individual it does not, however, follow that 
the class structure of a society is to be biologically explained. 
Rather, all the factors involved in social phenomena generally are 
prima facie important in the determination of concrete kinship 
structures. The same is true of class. In a caste system no indi- 
vidual can change his status of birth, but it does not follow that 
elements other than birth are not important in the maintenance of 
a concrete caste system, that any great change in any one or more 
would not result in a change of the system. When there is a more 
or less open class system, on the other hand, it is to some combina- 
tion of these other elements that one must look for the factors 
which lead to change of the class status of kinship groups. 

There is a very complex system of mutual symbolic references 
by virtue of which primary criteria of status are reinforced by 
secondary criteria and symbols in various ways.^* For the primary 
criteria one must look to the general common value system of the 
society and its history. The secondary criteria or symbols are often 
much more adventitious, the result of associations formed in 
particular historical circumstances which have come to be tradi- 
tionally upheld. The primary criteria are those things which in 
relation to the dominant value system are "status-determining" 
attributes of the individual and which are valued for their own 
sake. The secondary criteria are those things which are regarded 
as normal accompaniments of the primary criteria or as normal 
effects of them. 

Birth, of course, plays a prominent role among the primary cri- 
teria of class status in any system approaching the caste type. But 
birth is probably never alone adequate to define the social role, and 
hence the expected qualities, possessions, achievements, or author- 
ity of the occupant of a given hereditary status. There is, rather, 
a complex combination of these things ascribed to the occupant 
of such a status. An excellent example is the senatorial aristocracy 
of Republican Rome. Though not formally so, in effect this was a 
hereditary group, only members of the senatorial families being 
eligible for the kind of career which led to the higher magistracies 

^^ The present distinction between primary and secondary criteria is a rough 
one. For many purposes it may well be necessary to refine the classification fur- 
ther. Besides their significance as criteria, many of the same elements may also 
have significance as causal factors in the distribution of individuals among 
statuses and in shifts in the system of stratification. It is impossible, within the 
limits of this paper, to enter into these complex problems. 


and finally membership in the Senate. "New men," though not 
completely unknown, were very rare. But the young Roman of this 
class had to live up to a very rigorously defined pattern. He went 
through a career including military service and the holding of 
office. To be a good soldier, to run for office, to have the Roman 
aristocratic virtues, was compulsory for such a young man. Wealth 
was partly hereditary, partly an acquisition of office-holding. Far 
from being in a position simply to rest on the laurels of his birth 
the Roman aristocrat was subjected to a very severe discipline and 
was expected to live up to a high level of achievement. That none 
of the generals who led the earlier Roman conquests, first of Italy, 
then of Carthage, and in part of Greece and the East, was a pro- 
fessional soldier in our sense but an aristocratic amateur who was 
a soldier as part of his ascribed role as an aristocrat attests to the 
great power of such ascribed patterns. In certain respects the extra- 
ordinary discipline to which the Spartiates were subjected is an 
even more striking example. The essence of the matter is that a 
combination of elements other than birth becomes part of the 
ascribed pattern to which the incumbent of the status is socially 
expected to "live up." 

Though birth is certainly in these circumstances a primary cri- 
terion of status, the basic "virtues" emphasized by the ascribed 
pattern are equally primary, and, once an individual is eligible by 
virtue of birth, these are the main points at which social pressure 
to maintain the pattern is applied. Wealth, however, is seldom a 
primary criterion. It may, however, play an important secondary 
role in that a certain "style of living" comes to be expected of the 
members of an aristocracy. A minimum of wealth is a necessary 
means of keeping this up, while unusual wealth may be a source 
of extra prestige, by enabling its holder to excel in many symboli- 
cally important respects. Sometimes an economic system may change 
so as seriously to endanger the position of such an aristocracy, by 
enabling persons not qualified by birth to take on many of the 
symbols of aristocratic status and at the same time making it im- 
possible for members of the aristocracy to maintain them. The 
steady process by which Spartiate families dropped out because 
of inability to make their contributions to the mess is an excellent 

Where status is mainly achieved, the situation is quite diflPerent. 
Birth cannot be a primary criterion but only a practical advantage 


in securing a differential access to opportunities, though in this 
respect it is of fundamental significance in our society and one of 
the main mechanisms by which a relative stability of the system of 
stratification is maintained. 

But in our own society, apart from hereditary groups at the top 
in certain sections of the country, the main criteria of class status 
are to be found in the occupational achievements of men, the 
normal case being the married man with immature children. 
Authority is significant partly as a necessary means of carrying on 
occupational functions, but in turn the authority exercised is one 
of the main criteria of the prestige of an occupational status. 
Authority, especially that of office,^'^ is again important as a reward 
of past achievements, the general structure of the pattern being a 
progressive rise to greater achievements and greater rewards con- 
comitantly. Being permitted to perform the 'liigher" functions and 
being given the authority to do so constitute recognition of past 
achievements and of the ability necessary for further ones. Thus 
authority and office become secondary, symbolic criteria of status, 
because of their traditional association with achievement. But, 
once they have gained this significance as criteria, the incumbent 
of an office can enjoy its prestige independently of whether he 
actually has the requisite achievements to his credit or not. 

The case of wealth as a criterion of status in our society is some- 
what more complex. In spite of much opinion to the contrary, it is 
not a primary criterion, seen in terms of the common value system. 
Like office, its primary significance is as a symbol of achievement. 
But it owes its special prominence in that respect to certain pecul- 
iar features of our social system. That is, with a basic ethic which 
emphasizes individual achievement as the primary criterion of 
stratification, we have developed an economic system which to a 
hitherto unprecedented degree rests on a "business" or "capital- 
istic" basis. Our society is very highly specialized occupationally. 
The measures of achievement are technical and specific for each 
particular field. Hence it is difficult to compare relative achieve- 
ments in different fields with one another. To be sure, there is a 
very rough general scale of prestige occupations which is at least 
relatively independent of income. Skilled labor ranks higher than 
unskilled labor; functions with an important intellectual com- 

17 Not only political office but, even more, offices held in business corpora- 
tions and other "private"associations. 


ponent which require "higher education" rank high. In particular, 
authority over others, in proportion to its extent, ranks high. 

But in a business economy the immediate end of business poHcy 
must, in the nature of the case, be to improve the financial status 
of the enterprise. Regardless of the technical content of its opera- 
tions, the earnings of a business have become the principal criterion 
of its success. It is not surprising that the same has, to a relatively 
high degree, come to be true of individuals in business. Hence, 
within the broad framework of the direct differential valuation of 
occupations and achievements as managerial, professional, skilled, 
unskilled, etc., there is an income hierarchy which, on the whole, 
corresponds to that of direct valuation. ^^ This income hierarchy 
forms a most convenient point of reference for the determination 
of the status of an individual or of a family. Furthermore, within 
any particular closely knit group, it is fairly adequate as a criterion, 
since the more highly valued jobs are also the best paid. But in 
such a complex system as our own its adequacy is much more 
dubious. In particular, it is complicated by the inheritance of prop- 
erty, by the availability of means of making money which are of 
doubtful legitimacy in terms of the value system, and by the many 
relatively adventitious opportunities for money-making opened up 
by the rapid changes and fluctuations of a business system in a 
society which is to a high degree emancipated from the rigidities 
of traditionalism. Hence the same thing happens as with the case 
of authority. Wealth, which owes its place as a criterion of status 
mainly to its being an effect of business achievement, gains a cer- 
tain independence so that the possessor of wealth comes to claim 
a status and to have it recognized, regardless of whether or not 
he has the corresponding approved achievements to his credit. In 
our society this is further complicated by the fact that there is a 
tradition of respect for inherited wealth which has never quite 
been extinguished, and where the status is ascribed and the wealth 
naturally never regarded as an effect of its possessors' achievements. 

There is a further respect in which wealth has a peculiar signifi- 
cance in an "individualistic" society. Where status is ascribed, 
there is usually a fairly well-defined standard to which people are 
expected to live up. For the group in question there is something 

18 How this correspondence comes about is an interesting sociological prob- 
lem. The one thing which can be said here with certainty is that an ordinary 
•economic explanation, though true within certain limits, is quite inadequate to 
the general problem. The explanation is to a large extent institutional. 


like a "ceiling" of adequate achievement, even though there are 
naturally different degrees of attainment. With respect to achieved 
status, on the other hand, the situation is different. Achievement 
is in a different sense competitive. There is a more or less indefinite 
scale of degrees of excellence in any one line. Even though for a 
professional group, like the medical, there is a fairly well-defined 
minimum of competence, from this minimum upward there is a 
gradual transition through a widely dispersed pyramid to the 
"top" of the profession. The fact that money is an infinitely divisi- 
ble, quantitative medium of measurement makes it a peculiarly 
convenient criterion to designate the various steps in such a 
gradual pyramidal structure, particularly where other common 
measures such as direct technical criteria or hierarchy of office in 
directly comparable organizations are not readily available. It is, 
in fact, quite common to speak of "$5,000 men" or "$25,000 men," 
although it is realized that this is not alone an adequate measure 
of their status. 

As in the case of ascribed status the role of money as a criterion 
of status is here strongly reinforced by the fact that its expenditure 
is largely for other symbols of status in turn. Though the "standard 
of living" of any group must cover their intrinsically significant 
needs, such as food, shelter, and the like, there can be no doubt 
that an exceedingly large component of standards of living every- 
where is to be found in the symbolic significance of many of its 
items in relation to status. Indeed it may be said that there are 
two types of situations in which this is likely to be more impor- 
tant than otherwise— the case of an aristocracy the members of 
which maintain a conspicuously different style of life from that 
of the rest of the population and the case of a group who are 
involved in a highly competitive struggle for achieved status, where 
the status of a large proportion of them at any given time is 
either newly acquired or relatively insecure or both. Perhaps at 
no time in history have such a large proportion of a great popula- 
tion been "on the make" as in the United States of the early 
twentieth century. 

One further important point is that the various items of a stand- 
ard of living which are symbolic of status necessarily play their pri- 
mary role in relation to class status, not to the other aspects of the 
status of the members of a family. This follows from the fact that 
income is allocated on a basis of the family as a unit. A very inter- 


esting point of view from which to conduct budget studies would 
be to determine the various different things which were thought 
necessary for each member of a family in order to maintain or to 
improve the class status of the family as a whole. 

The difficulty of finding common measures of status when the 
primary criterion is occupational achievement has already been 
mentioned. To a certain extent we do, of course, have such com- 
mon measures, above all the relatively vague scales of direct 
valuations and of income. But to a considerable extent this situ- 
ation is met by a certain vagueness in the actual scale of stratifi- 
cation, so that it is only in a relatively rough and broad sense, not 
a precise and definite one, that a given individual or family is 
placed relative to others. There is a relatively broad range of the 
standard of living where anyone with a certain minimum of income 
can participate without having the question of his relative status 
raised. This is, for instance, true of many of the facilities open to 
the "public." In hotels, restaurants, theaters, etc., a certain min- 
imum of dress and manners is required beyond the mere fact of 
being able to pay the direct charges. But this minimum is, for 
a certain class of facilities, possessed by people belonging to a 
rather wide range of class status. This is really an instance of a 
broader class of phenomena, those involved in the fact that very 
many social contacts in our society are "partial" or "segmental" 
and cover only an area of interests and values which can, to a 
relative degree, be isolated from class status. Another instance is 
the relative lack of integration as between different structures 
within the broader society, each of which involves a pretty definite 
stratification within itself, such as occupational groups of persons 
in regular daily contact, and "communities" of people whose 
mutual relations are very precisely defined. 

This indefiniteness, among other things, makes possible two 
very important things for the functioning of an individualistic 
social system. In the first place, when the relatively adventitious 
circumstances of the economic and social situation lead to dis- 
crejjancies between income and occupational status as otherwise 
judged, within certain limits too great a strain is not placed on the 
system. For example, it would be generally agreed that the differ- 
ence between the top range of incomes earned, on the one hand, 
in business and the law, on the other, in university teaching and 
the ministry does not accurately measure the relative prestige of 


their incumbents. A world-famous scientist who is a university 
professor on a ten-thousand-dollar salary is not only at the top 
of his own profession but may be the full equal in status of a 
corporation lawyer whose income is ten times his own. But so long 
as the scientist is able to maintain a "respectable" standard of 
living, entertain his friends well, dress his family adequately, and 
educate his children well, the fact that he cannot afford the luxuries 
of a hundred-thousand-dollar income is a matter of relative indif- 
ference. He simply does not compete on the plane of "conspicuous 
consumption" which is open to the lawyer but closed to him.^^ 

There is also another respect in which this vagueness is function- 
ally important in our system. If the institutional pattern which bases 
class status on the occupational achievements of a man is not to be 
severely discredited, there must be considerable room for class 
mobility. But this means that there will inevitably be a process of 
"dispersion" of the members of the same kinship groups in the 
class structure. In particular, there will be dispersion as between 
parents and children and as between siblings. A son, for instance, 
may rise well above his father's status, or two brothers may fare 
very unequally. To be sure, this is partly taken care of by the 
weakening of at least parts of the kinship structure itself, in that 
the primary unit of kinship has become the immediate family of 
parents and immature children. The ties of independent children 
to their parents and of independent siblings to one another are 
greatly weakened. Above all, these are not any longer normally 
the day-to-day "community" ties which are inevitable as between 
those who share the life of a common household. But, of course, 
this does not mean that such ties have become of negligible im- 
portance. It is difficult to see how such powerful sentiments as 
those developed between parents and children during the depend- 
ent period could be simply dropped at maturity without serious 

The fact is that they are not. The vagueness of our class struc- 
ture provides a kind of cushioning mechanism. For the fact that 
mature children ordinarily live in independent households is 
associated with the further fact that they are usually, to a large 
extent, members of independent "communities." Their mutual 

19 This is not to say that the discrepancy does not give rise to some strains 
which, however, are more Ukely to be felt by the scientist's wife and/ or children 
than himself. 


relations become highly segmental. When one visits the other, he 
is, from the point of view of the latter's community relationships, 
an "outsider," a stranger. So long as the discrepancy is not too 
great, it is then unnecessary for there to be any very exact determi- 
nation of relatives class status, as there would have to be if both 
were permanent members of the same set of immediate community 
relationships, of the same "particular nexus." There will naturally 
be gossip which compares the relative status of the two, but this 
does not assume the same importance in the two cases. For instance, 
if two brothers are on the faculty of the same university, the 
question of their relative status is very acute. But if one is a 
physician in Boston and the other is in business in Chicago, such 
questions hardly arise at all unless the discrepancy of their relative 
"success" is very marked. One may say, then, that the vagueness 
of our class structure over relatively wide areas serves to protect 
the important residue of the more extended kinship relations from 
disruption in a society where class mobility is of fundamental 
functional importance. It would be expected that, wherever, in 
any particular situation, technical criteria of achievement were of 
particular importance in an occupational hierarchy, this vagueness 
of class status would tend to be especially marked, with even cases 
of what, from another point of view, would appear to be strange 
inhibitions on intimacy of social contact. 


Age and Sex in the Social Structure 
of the United States 

IN OUR SOCIETY age grading does not to any great extent, except 
for the educational system, involve formal age categorization, but 
is interwoven with other structural elements. In relation to these, 
however, it constitutes an important connecting link and organiz- 
ing point of reference in many respects. The most important of 
these for present purposes are kinship structure, formal education, 
occupation and community participation. In most cases the age 
lines are not rigidly specific, but approximate; this does not, how- 
ever, necessarily lessen their structural significance.^ 

In all societies the initial status of every normal individual is 
that of child in a given kinship unit. In our society, however, this 
universal starting point is used in distinctive ways. Although in 
early childhood the sexes are not usually sharply diflFerentiated, in 
many kinship systems a relatively sharp segregation of children 
begins very early. Our own society is conspicuous for the extent 
to which children of both sexes are in many fundamental respects 
treated alike. This is particularly true of both privileges and re- 
sponsibilities. The primary distinctions within the group of depend- 
ent siblings are those of age. Birth order as such is notably 
neglected as a basis of discrimination; a child of eight and a child 
of five have essentially the privileges and responsibilities appro- 
priate to their respective age levels without regard to what older, 
intermediate, or younger siblings there may be. The preferential 

1 The problem of organization of this material for systematic presentation 
is, in view of this fact, particularly difficult. It would be possible to discuss the 
subject in terms of the above four principal structures with which age and sex 
are most closely interwoven, but there are serious disadvantages involved in this 
procedure. Age and sex categories constitute one of the main links of structural 
continuity in terms of which structures which are differentiated in other respects 
are articulated with each other; and in isolating the treatment of these categories 
there is danger that this extremely important aspect of the problem will be lost 
sight of. The least objectionable method, at least within the limits of space of 
such a paper, seems to be to follow the sequence of the life cycle. 


treatment of an older child is not to any significant extent differ- 
entiated if and because he happens to be the first born. 

There are, of course, important sex differences in dress and in 
approved play interest and the like, but if anything, it may be 
surmised that in the urban upper middle classes these are tending 
to diminish. Thus, for instance, play overalls are essentially similar 
for both sexes. What is perhaps the most important sex discrimi- 
nation is more than anything else a reflection of the differentiation 
of adult sex roles. It seems to be a definite fact that girls are more 
apt to be relatively docile, to conform in general according to 
adult expectations, to be "good," whereas boys are more apt to be 
recalcitrant to discipline and defiant of adult authority and expec- 
tations. There is really no feminine equivalent of the expression 
"bad boy." It may be suggested that this is at least partially ex- 
plained by the fact that it is possible from an early age to initiate 
girls directly into many important aspects of the adult feminine 
role. Their mothers are continually about the house and the mean- 
ing of many of the things they are doing is relatively tangible 
and easily understandable to a child. It is also possible for the 
daughter to participate actively and usefully in many of these ac- 
tivities. Especially in the urban middle classes, however, the father 
does not work in the home and his son is not able to observe his 
work or to participate in it from an early age. Furthermore many of 
the masculine functions are of a relatively abstract and intangible 
character, such that their meaning must remain almost wholly inac- 
cessible to a child. This leaves the boy without a tangible meaning- 
ful model to emulate and without the possibility of a gradual 
initiation into the activities of the adult male role. An important 
verification of this analysis could be provided through the study in 
our own society of the rural situation. It is my impression that farm 
boys tend to be "good" in a sense in which that is not typical 
of their urban brothers. 

The equality of privileges and responsibilities, graded only by age 
but not by birth order, is extended to a certain degree throughout 
the whole range of the life cycle. In full adult status, however, it is 
seriously modified by the asymmetrical relation of the sexes to the 
occupational structure. One of the most conspicuous expressions and 
symbols of the underlying equality, however, is the lack of sex dif- 
ferentiation in the process of formal education, so far, at least, as it 
is not explicitly vocational. Up through college, differentiation seems 
to be primarily a matter on the one hand of individual ability, on 


the other hand of class status, and only to a secondary degree of sex 
differentiation. One can certainly speak of a strongly established 
pattern that all children of the family have a "right" to a good edu- 
cation, rights which are graduated according to the class status of 
the family but also to individual ability. It is only in post-graduate 
professional education, with its direct connection with future occu- 
pational careers, that sex discrimination becomes conspicuous. It is 
particularly important that this equality of treatment exists in the 
sphere of liberal education since throughout the social structure of 
our society there is a strong tendency to segregate the occupational 
sphere from one in which certain more generally human patterns 
and values are dominant, particularly in informal social life and the 
realm of what will here be called community participation. 

Although this pattern of equality of treatment is present in certain 
fundamental respects at all age levels, at the transition from child- 
hood to adolescence new features appear which disturb the sym- 
metry of sex roles, while still a second set of factors appears with 
marriage and the acquisition of full adult status and responsibilities. 

An indication of the change is the practice of chaperonage, through 
which girls are given a kind of protection and supervision by adults 
to which boys of the same age group are not subjected. Boys, that 
is, are chaperoned only in their relations with girls of their own 
class. This modification of equality of treatment has been extended 
to the control of the private lives of women students in boarding 
schools and colleges. Of undoubted significance is the fact that it 
has been rapidly declining not only in actual effectiveness but as an 
ideal pattern. Its prominence in our recent past, however, is an im- 
portant manifestation of the importance of sex role differentiation. 
Important light might be thrown upon its functions by systematic 
comparison with the related phenomena in Latin countries where 
this type of asymmetry has been far more accentuated than in this 
country in the more modern period. 

It is at the point of emergence into adolescence that there first 
begins to develop a set of patterns and behavior phenomena which 
involve a highly complex combination of age grading and sex role 
elements. These may be referred to together as the phenomena of 
the "youth culture." Certain of its elements are present in pre-ado- 
lescence and others in the adult culture. But the peculiar combina- 
tion in connection with this partciular age level is unique and high- 
ly distinctive for American society. 


Perhaps the best single point of reference for characterizing the 
youth culture lies in its contrast with the dominant pattern of the 
adult male role. By contrast with the emphasis on responsibility in 
this role, the orientation of the youtli culture is more or less speci- 
fically irresponsible. One of its dominant features themes is "having 
a good time" in relation to which there is a particularly strong em- 
phasis on social activities in company with the opposite sex. A sec- 
ond predominant characteristic on the male side lies in the 
prominence of athletics, which is an avenue of achievement and 
competition which stands in sharp contrast to the primary stand- 
ards of adult achievement in professional and executive capacities. 
Negatively, there is a strong tendency to repudiate interest in adult 
things and to feel at least a certain recalcitrance to the pressure of 
adult expectations and discipline. In addition to, but including, ath- 
letic prowess the typical pattern of the male youth culture seems to 
lay emphasis on the value of certain qualities of attractiveness, espe- 
cially in relation to the opposite sex. It is very definitely a rounded 
humanistic pattern rather than one of competence in the perform- 
ance of specified functions. Such stereotypes as the "swell guy" are 
significant of this. On the feminine side there is correspondingly a 
strong tendency to accentuate sexual attractiveness in terms of vari- 
ous versions of what may be called the "glamor girl" pattern.^ Al- 
though these patterns defining roles tend to polarize sexually— for 
instance, as between star athlete and socially popular girl— yet on a 
certain level they are complementary, both emphasizing certain 
features of a total personality in terms of the direct expression of 
certain values rather than of instrumental significance. 

^' Perhaps the most dramatic manifestation of this tendency lies in the 
prominence of the patterns of "dating," for instance among college women. As 
shown by an unpublished participant-observer study made at one of the Eastern 
women's colleges, perhaps the most important single basis of informal prestige 
rating among the residents of a dormitory lies in their relative dating success— 
though this is by no means the only basis. One of the most striking features of 
the pattern is the high publicity given to the "achievements" of the individual 
in a sphere where traditionally in the culture a rather high level of privacy is 
sanctioned — it is interesting that once an engagement has occurred a far 
greater amount of privacy is granted. The standards of rating cannot be said to 
be well integrated, though there is an underlying consistency in that being in 
demand by what the group regards as desirable men is perhaps the main standard. 

It is true that the "dating" complex need not be exclusively bound up with 
the "glamor girl" stereotype of ideal feminine personality — the "good com- 
panion" type may also have a place. Precisely, however, where the competitive 
aspect of dating is most prominent the glamor pattern seems heavily to pre- 
dominate, as does, on the masculine side, a somewhat comparable glamorous 
type. On each side at the same time there is room for considerable differences 
as to just where the emphasis is placed — for example as between "voluptuous" 
sexuality and more decorous "charm." 


One further feature of this situation is the extent to which it is 
crystallized about the system of formal education.^ One might say 
that the principal centers of prestige dissemination are the colleges, 
but that many of the most distinctive phenomena are to be found 
in high schools throughout the country. It is of course of great im- 
portance that liberal education is not primarily a matter of voca- 
tional training in the United States. The individual status on the 
curricular side of formal education is, however, in fundamental ways 
linked up with adult expectations, and doing "good work" is one of 
the most important sources of parental approval. Because of second- 
ary institutionalization this approval is extended into various spheres 
distinctive of the youth culture. But it is notable that the youth 
culture has a strong tendency to develop in directions which are 
either on the borderline of parental approval or beyond the pale, in 
such matters as sex behavior, drinking and various forms of frivol- 
ous and irresponsible behavior. The fact that adults have attitudes 
toward these things which are often deeply ambivalent and that on 
such occasions as college reunions they may outdo the younger 
generation, in drinking, for instance, is of great significance, but 
probably structurally secondary to the youth-versus-adult differ- 
ential aspect. Thus the youth culture is not only, as is true of the 
curricular aspect of formal education, a matter of age status as such 
but also shows strong signs of being a product of tensions in the 
relationship of younger people and adults. 

From the point of view of age grading, perhaps the most notable 
fact about this situation is the existence oi definite pattern distinc- 
tions from the periods coming both before and after. At the line be- 
tween childhood and adolescence "growing up" consists precisely in 
ability to participate in youth culture patterns, which are not, for 
either sex, the same as the adult patterns practiced by the parental 
generation. In both sexes the transition to full adulthood means loss 
of a certain "glamorous" element. From being the athletic hero or 
the lion of college dances, the young man becomes a prosaic busi- 
ness executive or lawyer. The more successful adults participate in 
an important order of prestige symbols but these are of a very dif- 

3 A central aspect of this focus of crystallization lies in the element of ten- 
sion, sometimes of direct conflict, between the youth culture patterns of college 
and school life, and the "serious" interests in and obligations toward curricular 
work. It is of course the latter which defines some at least of the most important 
foci of adult expectations of doing "good" work and justifying the privileges 
granted. It is not possible here to attempt to analyze the interesting ambivalent 
attitudes of youth toward curricular work and achievement. 


ferent order from those of the youth culture. The contrast in the 
case of the feminine role is perhaps equally sharp, with at least a 
strong tendency to take on a "domestic" pattern with marriage and 
the arrival of young children. 

The symmetry in this respect must, however, not be exaggerated. 
It is of fundamental significance to the sex role structure of the 
adult age levels that the normal man has a "job," which is funda- 
mental to his social status in general. It is perhaps not too much to 
say that only in very exceptional cases can an adult man be genu- 
inely self-respecting and enjoy a respected status in the eyes of 
others if he does not "earn a living" in an approved occupational 
role. Not only is this a matter of his own economic support but, 
generally speaking, his occupational status is the primary source of 
the income and class status of his wife and children. 

In the case of the feminine role the situation is radically different. 
The majority of married women, of course, are not employed, but 
even of those that are a very large proportion do not have jobs 
which are in basic competition for status with those of their hus- 
bands.^ The majority of "career" women whose occupational status 
is comparable with that of men in their own class, at least in the 
upper middle and upper classes, are unmarried, and in the small 
proportion of cases where they are married the result is a profound 
alteration in family structure. 

This pattern, which is central to the urban middle classes, should 
not be misunderstood. In rural society, for instance, the operation 
of the farm and the attendant status in the community may be said 
to be a matter of the joint status of both parties to a marriage. 
Whereas a farm is operated by a family, an urban job is held by an 
individual and does not involve other members of the family in a 
comparable sense. One convenient expression of the difference lies 
in the question of what would happen in case of death. In the case 
of a farm it would at least be not at all unusual for the widow to 

^ The above statement, even more than most in the present paper, needs to 
be qualified in relation to the problem of class. It is above all to the upper mid- 
dle class that it applies. Here probably the great majority of "working vi'ives" 
are engaged in some form of secretarial work which would, on an independent 
basis, generally be classed as a lower middle class occupation. The situation at 
lower levels of the class structure is quite different since the prestige of the jobs 
of husband and wife is then much more likely to be nearly equivalent. It is quite 
possible that this fact is closely related to the relative instability of marriage 
which Davis and Gardner (Deep South) find, at least for the community they 
studied, to be typical of lower class groups. The relation is one which deserves 
careful study. 


continue operating the farm with the help of a son or even of hired 
men. In the urban situation the widow would cease to have any 
connection with the organization which had employed her husband 
and he would be replaced by another man without reference to 
family aflBliations. 

In this urban situation the primary status-carrying role is in a 
sense that of housewife. The woman's fundamental status is that of 
her husband's wife, the mother of his children, and traditionally 
the person responsible for a complex of activities in connection with 
the management of the household, care of children, etc. 

For the structuring of sex roles in the adult phase the most fun- 
damental considerations seem to be those involved in the inter- 
relations of the occupational system and the conjugal family. In a 
certain sense the most fundamental basis of the family's status is 
the occupational status of the husband and father. As has been 
pointed out, this is a status occupied by an individual by virtue of 
his individual qualities and achievements. But both directly and 
indirectly, more than any other single factor, it determines the 
status of the family in the social structure, directly because of the 
symbolic significance of the ofiice or occupation as a symbol of 
prestige, indirectly because as the principal source of family income 
it determines the standard of living of the family. From one point 
of view the emergence of occupational status into this primary 
position can be regarded as the principal source of strain in the sex 
role structure of our society since it deprives the wife of her role as 
a partner in a common enterprise. The common enterprise is re- 
duced to the life of the family itself and to the informal social 
activities in which husband and wife participate together. This 
leaves the wife a set of utilitarian functions in the management of 
the household which may be considered a kind of "pseudo-" occupa- 
tion. Since the present interest is primarily in the middle classes, 
the relatively unstable character of the role of housewife as the 
principal content of the feminine role is strongly illustrated by the 
tendency to employ domestic servants wherever financially possible. 
It is true that there is an American tendency to accept tasks of drudg- 
ery with relative willingness, but it is notable that in middle class 
families there tends to be a dissociation of the essential personality 
from the performance of these tasks. Thus, advertising continually 
appeals to such desires as to have hands which one could never tell 


had washed dishes or scrubbed floors.'' Organization about the func- 
tion of housewife, however, with the addition of strong affectional 
devotion to husband and children, is the primary focus of one of 
the principal patterns governing the adult feminine role— what may 
be called the "domestic" pattern. It is, however, a conspicuous fact 
that strict adherence to this pattern has become progressively less 
common and has a strong tendency to a residual status— that is, to 
be followed most closely by those who are unsuccessful in competi- 
tion for prestige in other directions. 

It is, of course, possible for the adult woman to follow the mascu- 
line pattern and seek a career in fields of occupational achievement 
in direct competition with men of her own class. It is, however, 
notable that in spite of the very great progress of the emancipation 
of women from the traditional domestic pattern only a very small 
fraction have gone very far in this direction. It is also clear that its 
generalization would only be possible with profound alterations in 
the structure of the family. 

Hence it seems that concomitant with the alteration in the basic 
masculine role in the direction of occupation there have appeared 
two important tendencies in the feminine role which are alternative 
to that of simple domesticity on the one hand, and to a full-fledged 
career on the other. In the older situation there tended to be a very 
rigid distinction between respectable married women and those 
who were "no better than they should be." The rigidity of this line 
has progressively broken down through the infiltration into the 
respectable sphere of elements of what may be called again the 
glamor pattern, with the emphasis on a specifically feminine form 
of attractiveness which on occasion involves directly sexual patterns 
of appeal. One important expression of this trend lies in die fact 
that many of the symbols of feminine attractiveness have been 
taken over direcdy from the practices of social types previously 
beyond the pale of respectable society. This would seem to be sub- 
stantially true of the practice of women smoking and of at least the 
modern version of the use of cosmetics. The same would seem to 
be true of many of the modern versions of women's dress. "Eman- 

^ This type of advertising appeal undoubtedly contains an element of "snob 
appeal" in the sense of an invitation to the individual by her appearance and 
ways to identify herself with a higher social class than that of her actual status. 
But it is almost certainly not wholly explained by this element. A glamorously 
feminine appearance which is specificalfy dissociated from physical work is un- 
doubtedly a genuine part of an authentic personality ideal of the middle class, 
and not only evidence of a desire to belong to the upper class. 


cipation" in this connection means primarily emancipation from 
traditional and conventional restrictions on the free expression of 
sexual attraction and impulses, but in a direction which tends to 
segregate the elements of sexual interest and attraction from the 
total personality and in so doing tends to emphasize the segrega- 
tion of sex roles. It is particularly notable that there has been no 
corresponding tendency to emphasize masculine attraction in terms 
of dress and other such aids. One might perhaps say that in a situ- 
ation which strongly inhibits competition between the sexes on the 
same plane the feminine glamor pattern has appeared as an offset 
to masculine occupational status and to its attendant symbols of 
prestige. It is perhaps significant that there is a common stereotype 
of the association of physically beautiful, expensively and elabo- 
rately dressed women with physically unattractive but rich and 
powerful men. 

The other principal direction of emancipation from domesticity 
seems to lie in emphasis on what has been called the common 
humanistic element. This takes a wide variety of forms. One of them 
lies in a relatively mature appreciation and systematic cultivation 
of cultural interests and educated tastes, extending all the way 
from the intellectual sphere to matters of art, music and house 
furnishings. A second consists in cultivation of serious interests and 
humanitarian obligations in community welfare situations and the 
like. It is understandable that many of these orientations are most 
conspicuous in fields where through some kind of tradition there 
is an element of particular suitability for feminine participation. 
Thus, a woman who takes obligations to social welfare particularly 
seriously will find opportunities in various forms of activity which 
traditionally tie up with women's relation to children, to sickness 
and so on. But this may be regarded as secondary to the underly- 
ing orientation which would seek an outlet in work useful to the 
community following the most favorable opportunities which hap- 
pen to be available. 

This pattern, which with reference to the character of relation- 
ship to men may be called that of the "good companion," is distin- 
guished from the others in that it lays far less stress on the 
exploitation of sex role as such and more on that which is essentially 
common to both sexes. There are reasons, however, why cultural 
interests, interest in social welfare and community activities are 
particularly prominent in the activities of women in our urban 


communities. On the one side the mascuHne occupational role tends 
to absorb a very large proportion of the man's time and energy and 
to leave him relatively little for other interests. Furthermore, unless 
his position is such as to make him particularly prominent his pri- 
mary orientation is to those elements of the social structure which 
divide the community into occupational groups rather than those 
which unite it in common interests and activities. The utilitarian 
aspect of the role of housewife, on the other hand, has declined in 
importance to the point where it scarcely approaches a full-time 
occupation for a vigorous person. Hence the resort to other interests 
to fill up tlie gap. In addition, women, being more closely tied to 
the local residential community, are more apt to be involved in 
matters of common concern to the members of that community. 
This peculiar role of women becomes particularly conspicuous in 
middle age. The younger married woman is apt to be relatively high- 
ly absorbed in the care of young children. With their growing up, 
however, her absorption in the household is greatly lessened, often 
just at the time when the husband is approaching the apex of his 
career and is most heavily involved in its obligations. Since to a 
high degree this humanistic aspect of the feminine role is only 
partially institutionalized it is not surprising that its patterns often 
bear the marks of strain and insecurity, as perhaps has been classi- 
cally depicted by Helen Hokinson's cartoons of women's clubs. 

The adult roles of both sexes involve important elements of strain 
which are both in certain dynamic relationships, especially to the 
youth culture. In the case of the feminine role, marriage is the 
single event toward which a selective process, in which personal 
qualities and effort can play a decisive part, has pointed. That de- 
termines a woman's fundamental status, and after that her role 
patterning is not so much status determining as a matter of living 
up to expectations and finding satisfying interests and activities. In 
a society where such strong emphasis is placed upon individual 
achievement it is not surprising that there should be a certain ro- 
mantic nostalgia for the time when the fundamental choices were 
still open. This element of strain is added to by the lack of clear-cut 
definition of the adult feminine role. Once the possibility of a 
career has been eliminated there still tends to be a rather unstable 
oscillation between emphasis in the direction of domesticity or gla- 
mor or good companionship. According to situational pressures and 
individual character the tendency will be to emphasize one or 


another of these more strongly. But it is a situation Hkely to produce 
a rather high level of insecurity. In this state the pattern of domes- 
ticity must be ranked lowest in terms of prestige but also, because 
of the strong emphasis in community sentiment on the virtues of 
fidelity and devotion to husband and children, it offers perhaps the 
highest level of a certain kind of security. It is no wonder that such 
an important symbol as Whistler's mother concentrates primarily on 
this pattern. 

The glamor pattern has certain obvious attractions since to the 
woman who is excluded from the struggle for power and prestige 
in the occupational sphere it is the most direct path to a sense of 
superiority and importance. It has, however, two obvious limita- 
tions. In the first place, many of its manifestations encounter the 
resistance of patterns of moral conduct and engender conflicts not 
only with community opinion but also with the individual's own 
moral standards. In the second place, it is a pattern the highest 
manifestations of which are inevitably associated with a rather 
early age level— in fact, overwhelmingly with the courtship period. 
Hence, if strongly entered upon serious strains result from the 
problem of adaptation to increasing age. 

The one pattern which would seem to offer the greatest possi- 
bilities for able, intelligent, and emotionally mature women is the 
third— the good companion pattern. This, however, suffers from a 
lack of fully institutionalized status and from the multiplicity of 
choices of channels of expression. It is only those with the strongest 
initiative and intelligence who achieve fully satisfactory adapta- 
tions in this direction. It is quite clear that in the adult feminine 
role there is quite sufficient strain and insecurity so that widespread 
manifestations are to be expected in the form of neurotic behavior. 

The masculine role at the same time is itself by no means devoid 
of corresponding elements of strain. It carries with it to be sure the 
primary prestige of achievement, responsibility and authority. By 
comparison with the role of the youth culture, however, there are 
at least two important types of limitations. In the first place, the 
modern occupational system has led to increasing specialization of 
the role. The job absorbs an extraordinarily large proportion of the 
individual's energy and emotional interests in a role the content of 
which is often relatively narrow. This in particular restricts the 
area within which he can share common interests and experiences 
with others not in the same occupational specialty. It is perhaps of 


considerable significance that so many of the highest prestige sta- 
tuses of our society are of this speciaHzed character. There is in 
the definition of roles little to bind the individual to others in his 
community on a comparable status level. By contrast with this 
situation, it is notable that in the youth culture common human 
elements are far more strongly emphasized. Leadership and emi- 
nence are more in the role of total individuals and less of com- 
petent specialists. This perhaps has something to do v^^ith the 
significant tendency in our society for all age levels to idealize youth 
and for the older age groups to attempt to imitate the patterns of 
youth behavior. 

It is perhaps as one phase of this situation that the relation of 
the adult man to persons of the opposite sex should be treated. The 
efiFect of the specialization of occupational role is to narrow the 
range in which the sharing of common human interests can play a 
large part. In relation to his wife the tendency of this narrowness 
would seem to be to encourage on her part either the domestic or 
the glamorous role, or community participation somewhat unrelated 
to the marriage relationship. This relationship between sex roles 
presumably introduces a certain amount of strain into the marriage 
relationship itself since this is of such overwhelming importance 
to the family and hence to a woman's status and yet so relatively 
difficult to maintain on a level of human companionship. Outside 
the marriage relationship, however, there seems to be a notable 
inhibition against easy social intercourse, particularly in mixed 
company.*' The man's close personal intimacy with other women is 
checked by the danger of the situation being defined as one of ri- 
valry with the wife, and easy friendship without sexual-emotional 
involvement seems to be inhibited by the specialization of interests 
in the occupational sphere. It is notable that brilliance of conversa- 
tion of the "salon" type seems to be associated with aristocratic 
society and is not prominent in ours. 

Along with all this goes a certain tendency for middle-aged men, 

as symbolized by the "bald-headed row," to be interested in the 

physical aspects of sex— that is, in women precisely as dissociated 

from those personal considerations which are important to relation- 

'' In the informal social life of academic circles with which tlie writer i* 
famihar there seems to be a strong tendency in mixed gatherings — as after din- 
ner — for the sexes to segregate. In such groups the men are apt to talk either 
shop subjects or pohtics wliereas the women are apt to talk about domestic af- 
fairs, schools, their children, etc., or personalities. It is perhaps on personalities 
tliat mixed conversation is apt to flow most freely. 


ships of companionship or friendship, to say nothing of marriage. 
In so far as it does not take this physical form, however, there seems 
to be a strong tendency for middle-aged men to ideahze youth 
patterns— that is, to think of the ideal inter-sex friendship as that of 
their pre-marital period.' 

In so far as the idealization of the youth culture by adults is an 
expression of elements of strain and insecurity in the adult roles it 
would be expected that the patterns thus idealized would contain 
an element of romantic unrealism. The patterns of youthful behavior 
thus idealized are not those of actual youth so much as those which 
older people wish their own youth might have been. This romantic 
element seems to coalesce with a similar element derived from cer- 
tain strains in the situation of young people themselves. 

The period of youth in our society is one of considerable strain 
and insecurity. Above all, it means turning one's back on the security 
both of status and of emotional attachment which is engaged in the 
family of orientation. It is structurally essential to transfer one's 
primary emotional attachment to a marriage partner who is entirely 
unrelated to the previous family situation. In a system of free mar- 
riage choice this applies to women as well as men. For the man 
there is in addition the necessity to face the hazards of occupational 
competition in the determination of a career. There is reason to 
believe that the youth culture has important positive functions in 
easing the transition from the security of childhood in the family of 
orientation to that of full adult in marriage and occupational status. 
But precisely because the transition is a period of strain it is to be 
expected that it involves elements of unrealistic romanticism. Thus 
significant features of youth patterns in our society would seem to 
derive from the coincidence of the emotional needs of adolescents 
with those derived from the strains of the situation of adults. 

A tendency to the romantic idealization of youth patterns seems 
in different ways to be characteristic of modern Western society as 
a whole.^ It is not possible in the present context to enter into any 
extended comparative analysis, but it may be illuminating to call 
attention to a striking difference between the patterns associated 
with this phenomenon in Germany and in the United States. The 
German "youth movement," starting before the first World War, 

"^ This, to be sure, often contains an element of romanticization. It is more 
nearly what he wishes these relations had been than what they actually were. 

8 Cf. E. Y. Hartshome, "German Youth and the Nazi Dream of Victory," 
America in a World at War, Pamphlet, No. 12, New York, 1941. 


has occasioned a great deal of comment and has in various respects 
been treated as the most notable instance of the revolt of youth. It 
is generally believed that the youth movement has an important 
relation to the background of National Socialism, and this fact as 
much as any suggests the important difiFerence. While in Germany 
as everywhere there has been a generalized revolt against conven- 
tion and restrictions on individual freedom as embodied in the 
traditional adult culture, in Germany particular emphasis has ap- 
peared on the community of male youth. "Comradeship" in a sense 
which strongly suggests that of soldiers in the field has from the 
beginning been strongly emphasized as the ideal social relationship. 
By contrast with this, in the American youth culture and its adult 
romanticization a much stronger emphasis has been placed on the 
cross-sex relationship. It would seem that this fact, with the struc- 
tural factors which underlie it, have much to do with the failure of 
the youth culture to develop any considerable political significance 
in this country. Its predominant pattern has been that of the ideal- 
ization of the isolated couple in romantic love. There have, to be 
sure, been certain tendencies among radical youth to a political 
orientation but in this case there has been a notable absence of em- 
phasis on the solidarity of the members of one sex. The tendency 
has been rather to ignore the relevance of sex difference in the 
interest of common ideals. 

The importance of youth patterns in contemporary American 
culture throws into particularly strong relief the status in our social 
structure of the most advanced age groups. By comparison with 
other societies the United States assumes an extreme position in 
the isolation of old age from participation in the most important 
social structures and interests. Structurally speaking, there seem to 
be two primary bases of this situation. In the first place, the most 
important single distinctive feature of our family structure is the 
isolation of the individual conjugal family. It is impossible to say 
that with us it is "natural" for any other group than husband and 
wife and their dependent children to maintain a common house- 
hold. Hence, when the children of a couple have become independ- 
ent through marriage and occupational status the parental couple 
is left without attachment to any continuous kinship group. It is, of 
course, common for other relatives to share a household with the 
conjugal family but this scarcely ever occurs without some impor- 
tant elements of strain. For independence is certainly the preferred 


pattern for an elderly couple, particularly from the point of view 
of the children. 

The second basis of the situation lies in the occupational struc- 
ture. In such fields as fanning and maintenance of small indepen- 
dent enterprises there is frequently no such thing as abrupt 
"retirement," rather a gradual relinquishment of the main responsi- 
bilities and functions with advancing age. So far, however, as an 
individual's occupational status centers in a specific "job," he either 
holds the job or does not, and the tendency is to maintain the full 
level of functions up to a given point and then abruptly to retire. In 
view of the very great significance of occupational status and its 
psychological correlates, retirement leaves the older man in a pecu- 
liarly functionless situation, cut oflF from participation in the most 
important interests and activities of the society. There is a further 
important aspect of this situation. Not only status in the commu- 
nity but actual place of residence is to a very high degree a func- 
tion of the specific job held. Retirement not only cuts the ties to the 
job itself but also greatly loosens those to the community of resi- 
dence. Perhaps in no other society is there observable a phenome- 
non corresponding to the accumulation of retired elderly people in 
such areas as Florida and Southern California in the winter. It may 
be surmised that this structural isolation from kinship, occupational, 
and community ties is the fundamental basis of the recent political 
agitation for help to the old. It is suggested that it is far less the 
financial hardship^ of the position of elderly people than their social 
isolation which makes old age a "problem." As in other connections 
we are very prone to rationalize generalized insecurity in financial 
and economic terms. The problem is obviously of particularly great 
significance in view of the changing age distribution of the popula- 
tion with the prospect of a far greater proportion in the older age 
groups than in previous generations. It may also be suggested that, 
through well-known psychosomatic mechanisms, the increased in- 
cidence of the disabilities of older people, such as heart disease, 
cancer, etc., may be at least in part attributed to this structural 

^ That the financial difficulties of older people in a very large proportion 
of cases are real is not to be doubted. This, however, is at least to a very large 
extent a consequence rather than a determinant of the structural situation. 
Except where it is fully taken care of by pension schemes, the income of older 
people is apt to be seriously reduced, but, even more important, the younger 
conjugal family does not feel an obligation to contribute to the support of 
aged parents. Where as a matter of course both generations shared a common 
household, this problem did not exist. 


Democracy and Social Structure 
in Pre-Nazi Germany 

FROM A SOCIOLOGICAL point of vicw, the "democratic," or better 
"liberal-democratic" type of society which has reached its highest 
degree of large-scale realization in such countries as England 
and the United States, has developed from a complex combination 
of structural elements. Some of these elements have been common 
to the Western world as a whole, while others have played a part 
particularly in these two countries. By contrast Germany pre- 
sents a rather bewildering array both of similarities and of dif- 
ferences. This comparison will provide the main starting point 
of the present analysis of German social structure.^ 

On a common sense level, perhaps Germany's most conspicuous 
similarity especially with the United States, lies in the high devel- 
opment of industrialism, under the aegis of "big business." In 
particular this involves in the economy a high development of 
large scale organization, with a large, propertyless industrial class, 
a high concentration of executive authority and control of indus- 
trial property, and an important element of highly trained tech- 
nical personnel, especially in engineering, but also in relation to 
legal and administrative functions. Certainly in no other country 
except the United States has the economy been so highly "bureau- 
cratized" as in Germany. 

In Germany, as in other industrial countries, this structure of 

modern industrial enterprise has been imbedded in a complex of 

other institutional features which in many ways are very similar. 

It has had a highly developed money economy. Only a relatively 

small fraction of the jDopulation has even approached self-suflB- 

1 In broad historical perspective, of course, France has a strong claim to 
be considered at least as important to "democracy" as the modern Anglo- 
Saxon countries. There are, liowever, notable diiierences the discussion of 
which would introduce too many complications to be dealt with in the limited 
space available. On another level, many of the smaller European countries 
and the British Dominions must be neglected for the same reason. 


ciency. The great majority, on the contrary, have been mainly 
dependent on money income from salaries, wages or the profits 
of enterprise or disposal of services. To a high degree occupational 
status has been institutionally segregated from other not strictly 
functional bases of total status, though in this important respect 
there has certainly been a notable difference of degree especially 
from the United States. We have had no landed nobility, hardly an 
important class closely approaching the European peasantry, and 
a considerably smaller class of independent artisans and shop- 
keepers, whose status has in certain respects been similar to that 
of peasants. 

Pre-Nazi Germany was also notable for the high development 
of the one-price system with its consequent restriction of the 
bargaining process to the larger-scale, hence often relatively highly 
organized, market situations. Indeed, by means of the develop- 
ment of cartels and collective bargaining through trade unions, 
Germany went further, at an earlier time, than any other country 
in the regulation of the exchange process. All this was backed 
by a firm and, on the whole, technically and impartially admin- 
istered legal system in the fields of contract, monetary transactions 
and the like. 

The similarity, in spite of certain differences, between Roman 
and Common Law, extends to the basic structure of the institution 
of property, especially by contrast with the feudal background of 
European society. There was full institutional segregation between 
ownership and either political authority or social status in other 
respects, combined with full alienability and centralization of all 
property rights in a single ownership— a condition which is an 
essential prerequisite of "capitalism" as well as of certain elements 
of personal freedom and of the mobility of resources, both human 
and non-human, which underlie the "liberal" type of industrial 

These similarities in the structure of the economy and of its 
more immediate institutional penumbra go so far that many 
writers, especially those inclined to Marxism, have strongly tended 
to treat the social structures of Germany and the United States 
as for most practical purposes identical. For them the appearance 
and political success of the Nazi movement in Germany would then 
indicate only relatively superficial differences perhaps of external 
conditions, or of the constitution in the formal, legal sense. It will, 


by contrast with that view, be the thesis of the present analysis 
that a divergence of pohtical orientation so fundamental as that 
at present developing between the fascist and the liberal-democratic 
societies must go back to deeper structural sources than this view 
would indicate. On subtler institutional levels, important dif- 
ferences can be discerned even in the economy, but they can be 
more clearly brought out by noting their association with elements 
which contrast more obviously with our own. 

It has thus long been clear to competent scholars that the 
German state differed markedly from its British or American 
counterparts. This difference may in the main be characterized 
in terms of its interdependent "feudal," militaristic, bureaucratic, 
and authoritarian features. The predominant impress of these 
elements came from Prussia, but the position of Prussia was suflB- 
ciently central strongly to color the whole of Germany. 

Prussia, like England, has had a well-established "ruling class" 
even though the two have developed radically different patterns 
of life. In Prussia it has been a landed nobility with families 
settled on ancestral estates.. Their status has involved complete 
local dominance over a subordinated rural population, with control 
of local government, with the lower classes kept in a state of 
economic dependency, and the enjoyment of a position of high 
social prestige enforced by rigid conventions. In the state itself, 
however, the primary mode of participation of this class has 
not been in the civil administration but in the armed forces. 
Members of the Prussian Junker families have, over a considerable 
period, set the "tone" of the officers' corps even though a majority 
of its members in recent times have not come from these families. 
The status of oflBcer was that of maximum social prestige although 
not of impressive wealth or political influence in ordinary times— 
indeed there was a strong tradition of neutrality in ordinary 
political affairs. 

Thus by virtue of its connection with the Junker nobihty the 
German, especially the Prussian, ofiicers' corps did not constitute 
an ordinary "professional" military force in the sense in which that 
is true of our regular army. This situation was further bolstered 
by two other circumstances. In the first place, the armed forces 
under the old German constitution were not under the control of 
the civil administration but were responsible directly to the Kaiser. 
This fact was not merely of constitutional significance but was 


indicative of the solidarity of social status between nobility and 
royalty, the two elements of the traditional "ruling class." The 
reciprocal solidarity is strongly indicated by the tendency of Euro- 
pean royalty to emphasize their status as military commanders, 
for instance by making most public appearances in uniform even 
in peace time. Secondly, the oflBcers' corps, in continuity with the 
whole Junker class, carried on a highly distinctive "style of life" 
which was in sharp contrast with everything "bourgeois," involv- 
ing a strong contempt of industry and trade, of the bourgeois 
virtues, even of liberal and humane culture. Perhaps the most 
conspicuous symbol of this difference is the part played by the duel 
and its attendant code of honor. The most important criterion of 
eligibility to belong as a social equal was Satisfaktionsfaehigkeit, 
acceptability as an adversary in an "affair of honor," To be an 
officer one had also to be a "gentleman" in a technical sense which 
hardly included many elements of the population which we would 
consider high up in the middle class. 

It has been remarked that toward the time of the first World 
War considerable bourgeois elements had penetrated into the 
officers' corps. They were, however, in Germany, predominantly 
what was called the "feudalized" bourgeoisie. That is, though 
sons of civil servants, professional men, even on occasion bankers 
or industrialists, they tended to take on the style of Iffe of the 
Junker group rather than vice versa, and to be acceptable in 
proportion as they did so. One conspicuous phenomenon in this 
category was the place of the duelling "corps" in the universities. 

Thus the "feudal-militaristic" elements have played a prominent 
role in the structure of the German state. Though not in any 
simple sense involved in "politics," they have been integral to 
the structure especially through their close connection with the 
monarchy and their position at the top of the scale of social 
prestige. The deposition of the monarchy and great reduction 
of the peace-time army after 1918 went far to remove this element 
from its central position on the formal level, but the process was 
not sufficiently thorough to break up its social identity nor to 
destroy its traditional prestige, especially in view of its close 
integration witli other "conservative" elements in the social struc- 

Along with the position of the Junker military element, the 
German state has been famous for the high development of its 


civilian administrative bureaucracy. As in the case of the Junkers 
the main outhnes of this structural element ante-date, and are 
independent of, the development of industrialism in Germany. The 
bureaucracy does not, however, have the same continuity with 
"feudal" traditions, but developed as an aspect of the growth of 
centralized territorial monarchies in post-mediaeval times. It has 
been closely integrated with the adoption of Roman law and its 
teaching in the universities so that the bulk of administrative 
civil servants have had a university legal training. The judiciary 
has also, although a special branch, still been much more closely 
involved with this tradition than in the Anglo-Saxon countries. 
Indeed in Germany the legal profession as a whole has been far 
less independent of the state. 

This famous German civil service has constituted a highly pro- 
fessionalized group, with a very high degree of formalization of 
status and of the operation of the organization. Specificity of 
status and powers in terms of formal legal definition have been 
carried very far. Impartiality and scrupulous precision in applica- 
tion of the law in meticulous detail has been the keynote. Again 
not only has impartial application of the law been called for, but 
there has been a strong tradition of aloofness from politics, of 
duty to carry out the legislation and decrees of the supreme 
authority without question. 

Generally speaking the civil service has constituted for Prussia 
in particular the highest prestige element in the bourgeoisie. At 
court and in other "social" respects they have not been the equals 
of the nobility, but their sons could often become officers and even 
intermarriages with the nobility were not uncommon. A very 
strong sense of social superiority to most other bourgeois elements, 
particularly of a "capitalistic" tenor, except for the old "patricians" 
of the Hanseatic and other free cities, and latterly the most promi- 
nent business magnates, was conspicuous. University professors 
and the highest reaches of the independent liberal professions, as 
medicine and law, would be the closest below them in social 

Unlike the Junker military element, the higher civil service was 
not, in the Weimar Republic, displaced from formal participation 
in the operation of Government. If anything their power was 
probably on the whole increased because short of really radical 
revolution their knowledge and competence in administrative 


affairs was indispensable for keeping the essential governmental 
services in operation in a time of crisis. 

These two elements which were most closely involved in power 
and responsibility in the structure of the old German state were 
for the most part integrated together by the ideology vv'hich is 
perhaps best called "Prvissian conservatism." It might be charac- 
terized as a combination of a patriarchal type of authoritarianism 
with a highly developed formal legalism. Government has con- 
stituted an Ohrigkcit. Its role was by no means defined as "abso- 
lutism" in the sense of an unlimited right of those in authority 
to promote their own self-interest or indulge their personal whims. 
On the contrary, the pattern of "duty" as classically formulated by 
Kant was one of its keynotes. But this devotion to duty was com- 
bined with a strong sense of prerogative and authority which 
would not brook the "democratic" type of control by persons 
without authority, or any presumption, of elements not authorized 
by their formal status to interfere in the functions of duly con- 
stituted authority. Legitimacy and order were very strongly em- 
phasized. At the same time it was a system of authority under 
law, and one principal keynote of the pattern of duty was scrupu- 
lous adherence to the law. The obverse of what seems to many 
Anglo-Saxons the petty proliferation of minor regulations, the 
ubiquitous notice that such and such is Verboten, was the meticu- 
lous incorruptibility of the administration. 

Perhaps the master complex of ideological symbols of this sys- 
tem lay in Lutheranism. The ultimate legitimation of authority 
was the divine ordination of government and princes. Organiza- 
tionally the Lutheran church and clergy were more closely bound 
up with the regime than perhaps any other major branch of 
Christianity in modem times— not only was it in Prussia the estab- 
lished church, but the pastor was directly a civil servant and the 
principal supervisor of the system of public education. But more 
on the ideological level, the realm of idealism and genuine wish- 
fulfillment is for the Lutheran exclusively subjective and spiritual. 
This world is dominated by sin, mitigated only by the restraining 
influence of ordained authority. Society is not and can never be a 
Kingdom of God on Earth, but is fundamentally a vale of tears. 
In its application to the role of authority, this pattern favors a 
certain realism, for instance with respect to the advisability of 
adequate military protection of one's territory but its benevolent 


patriarchalism readily slips over into a kind of harsh authoritarian- 
ism and even into a cynical pursuit of power in defiance of the 
welfare of the masses of people. Government is to it a grim 
business, of which war is a very typical and essential part. 

It should not, of course, be forgotten that parliamentary govern- 
ment had developed in Imperial Germany to a considerable degree. 
But it is the above two elements in the state which were dis- 
tinctive of Germany by contrast with the Western democracies, 
and which very greatly limited the decisiveness of the influence of 
the parliamentary element. This situation would seem to have a 
good deal to do with the tendency of German parliamentarianism, 
certainly more conspicuously than in either England or the United 
States, to become structured as a system of representation of rather 
specific interest groups such as agrarian interests, big business, 
labor unions, the Catholic Church, a tendency which came to full 
flower under the Weimar Republic and had a good deal to do 
with its instability. 

The fact that a modem industrial economy developed in Ger- 
many in a society already to a large extent structured about the 
Prussian state and in the context of the pervasive configurational 
patterns of Prussian conservatism, undoubtedly colored the total 
development in many different respects. In the first place, "eco- 
nomic individualism" was never so prominent as in the Anglo- 
Saxon countries. Greater government participation in the affairs 
of the economy was taken for granted or not resisted, whether it 
was a question of government ownership and operation of the 
railways, or the fact that it was Germany which first introduced a 
comprehensive system of social insurance. It is undoubtedly sig- 
nificant that the "classical economics" never took real root in the 
German universities; for since it was never only a technical dis- 
cipline but was also an ideology, it expressed an ideal of inde- 
pendence of 'l)usiness" from the state and other "social" interests 
which was on the whole uncongenial to German mentality. 

The same circumstances, however, favored the rapid growth of 
large-scale organization in the German economy, and its relatively 
close assimilation to the pattern of government bureaucracy. Par- 
ticularly conspicuous in this respect is what to Anglo-Saxons 
appears to be a peculiar tendency towards the formalization of 
status in Germany, both in the economy and in other aspects 
of the society. Perhaps the best indication of this is the ubiquity 


of the use of titles. We give titles to high government officials, and 
various other persons in positions of dignity such as physicians, 
ministers and priests, sometimes officials of large organizations. 
But at least three differences are conspicuous as compared with 
pre-Nazi Germany. First, the system of titles is far less extensive. 
One could almost say that the prominence of formal rank and 
titles which we feel to be appropriate to armed services applies 
in Germany to the whole occupational world, reaching down even 
to statuses on the skilled labor level such as Eisenbahneamter, etc. 
The number of people who are plain Herr Braun or Herr Schmidt 
is relatively small. Secondly, titles are continuously used, so that 
in addressing a letter, or even in personal address it is a definite 
discourtesy to omit the full title. Thus anyone with any kind of a 
doctor's degree is always addressed as Herr Doktor— or so referred 
to— while we reserve this usage almost entirely for physicians. We 
often refer to, and even address titled people without the title- 
it would in Germany be disrespectful to refer to the Chancellor 
as Herr . . ., whereas speaking of "Mr. Roosevelt" instead of 
President Roosevelt is certainly not disrespectful. In Germany it 
would have had to be Herr Reichskanzler Dr. Bruening, or at least 
Reicliskanzler Bruening. Closely related is the German tendency 
to use an accumulation of titles. Thus where on a letter we would 
write Professor John Smith, there it would have to be Herr Pro- 
fessor Doktor Johann Schmidt. Our tendency to ignore titles on 
occasion is related to the usage with other symbols of formal status 
such as uniforms. In peace time a military officer generally appears 
in civilian clothes, even at work, unless he is on military post or, 
for a naval officer, on shipboard. Even when the nation was 
imminently threatened by war we had the spectacle of the Army's 
Chief of Staff on an eminently official occasion, testffying before 
a Senate Committee, in civilian clothes. That would be completely 
unthinkable in Germany. Even in war time the President, though 
he is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, never wears a uni- 
form. Finally, German titles are far more highly differentiated, both 
with respect to rank and to field of competence, than are ours. 
We have the one honorific title of "honorable" for high govern- 
mental officials; in Germany there are many graduations. The 
honorific title of Rat is differentiated into an indefinite number of 
subclasses according to the particular occupation of the incumbent 
Kommerzienrat, Justizrat, Sanitaestsrat, Rechnungsrat, etc. Finally 


there is, in general, a far greater insistence on meticulous observ- 
ance of correct titles.- 

Except for the status of nobility— including the title "von"— the 
primary content of this formalized status system in Germany was 
occupational. But the tendency to emphasize titles and other 
aspects of formal status even on what we would treat as "informal" 
occasions seems to indicate a difference from the predominant 
American pattern. With us, occupational status is to a relatively 
high degree segregated from the individual's "private life," while 
in Germany this seems to be considerably less the case; his specific 
formal status as it were follows him everywhere he goes. In social 
life generally he is less significant as a person, as John Smith, 
than he is as the incumbent of a formal status, as an official, an 
officer, a physician, a professor, or a worker. 

Another aspect of this formalism is worthy of note. To an Ameri- 
can the continual German insistence on titles connotes not only 
emphasis on formal status rather than individualit>% it connotes 
also "formality" in the sense which is antithetical to the informality 
of intimacy or of friendship. To an American it is surprising that 
German students may associate for months and never speak to each 
other at all, or when they do, address each other as Herr and 
Fraeulein, when their American counterparts would be addressing 
each other by their first names. Similarly with us, colleagues of 
about the same age, especially if relatively young, almost always 
address each other by their first names; they do so in Germany only 
if they have a specifically intimate friendship. These differences 
of usage may be said to symbolize that to American sentiments, 
at all close association in common activities should include an 
element of friendship— he is not only my fellow student or col- 
league, but also my friend— while in Germany occupational associa- 
tion and friendship are specifically segregated. It is most untactful 
to "presume" a level of intimacy to which one is not entitled.^ 

^ To relate an amusing instance:— as an official exchange student at a 
German university, I was formally received by the Rector of the University. 
After the interview a German student friend said, "I hope you addressed 
him correctly as Euer Magnifizetiz." When the reply was, "No, I said Herr 
Professor," my student friend was genuinely shocked. To an American, how- 
e\er, the idea of addressing a rather seedy-looking elderly professor as 
"Your Magnificence" seemed more than a little ridiculous. 

3 From a superficial point of view the above two points might seem to 
be contradictory. This, however, is not the case. The Gennan pattern seems 
to extend assimilation of other elements of status to formal occupational status 
considerably farther than ours does, and hence greatly to narrow dovra the 


The above considerations suggest that differences which are 
perhaps most conspicuous to the social scientist in terms of the 
broader status-groupings of the state and the economy can be 
followed into the realm of the more intimate personal relation- 
ships. It surely would be remarkable if the order of difference 
which has been discussed did not extend into the realm of family 
structure, of the definition of sex roles, and the patterning of the 
relations of the sexes, within marriage and outside it. 

In the first place, there would clearly seem to be in Germany 
a pattern of masculine superiority and a tendency to assume 
authority and prerogatives on the part of husbands and fathers 
which is much less pronounced in the United States. From the 
American point of view, particularly of women, German men tend 
to be dominating and authoritarian, and, conversely, to expect sub- 
missiveness and dependency on the part of their wives. This is 
perhaps particularly true in the middle classes. The "typical" 
German woman, especially if married, is thought of as a Hatisfrau 
—significantly a word taken over untranslated into English to 
denote a social type, while "housewife" suggests rather a census 
classification. The Hausfrau is, perhaps, the antithesis of the 
"emancipated" woman— emancipated in any one of several direc- 
tions. To the former applies the old adage of the three K's Kinder, 
Kirche, Kueche. Her life is concentrated on the home, on husband 
and children, and she participates little in the outside world, in 
community affairs, or even in cultural life. She tends to lack 
both "sex appeal" and other elements of "attractiveness." From the 
American point of view she does not dress well but is more 
"dowdy" than is accountable for in terms of lack of financial 

sphere of private individuality relative to the American pattern. But then a 
point is reached where matters concern a restricted sphere which is highly 
"private"— one's relations to one's true "friends." When this point is reached 
the segregation is far sharper than in the American case. The American 
pattern, on the other hand, does not go so far in extending the pattern of 
formal status beyond the immediate occupational context. Indeed, it mini- 
mizes it even there by admitting elements of "informality" which are struc- 
turally related to the friendship pattern in a way which would seem improper 
and undignified to most Germans. But there is a gradual transition, not 
marked by symbols of rigid distinction, between casual acquaintance with an 
occupational colleague through various degrees of intimacy to the most inti- 
mate friendship, which may or may not be with occupational associates, but 
certainly are not structurally required to be. In a sense the German system 
is more favorable to strict universalistic impartiality and less open to nepotism 
and other clique-like disturbances, but at the same time probably involves 
other elements of instability. 


The diflFerence is, of course, relative. Solid, conservative domes- 
ticity is very much a live ideal in the United States, but relatively 
less prominent. In Germany there has been "high society" with a 
great deal of aristocratic emancipation from moralistic domesticity, 
but one can say confidently that it has never been capable of 
really competing with its French counterpart. In the upper middle 
classes there have, especially in recent times, been many highly 
educated and cultured women, many of them leaders in the 
Fraiienbewegung. Finally, gainful employment of married women 
outside the home has been as conspicuous in Germany as in other 
industrial countries, and has greatly modified this pattern for 
the working classes. But the quantitative difference of emphasis 
remains: more German women are Hausfrauen than American, 
and even the American woman who has no career or job, has 
on the average a different style of life, is more concerned with 
her personal appearance, with men other than her husband, and 
with impersonal interests outside her home. Above all on the 
ideological level there is, perhaps outside Catholic circles, a con- 
siderably more favorable attitude toward the non-domestic virtues 
in women. There is less tendency to encourage submissiveness and 
psychological dependency, less resentment at women "intruding" 
in the world of masculine affairs. The principal exception is 
probably in the areas of greatest intellectual, cultural, and "bohe- 
mian" emancipation which have probably been more extreme in 
Europe generally, including Germany, than in the United States 
at least until quite recently. 

Closely related to this difference in feminine roles is a far lower 
development in Germany of the "romantic love" pattern. The love 
relationships of youth have been as it were "sentimentalized" in 
Germany to a considerable extent, but with a different emphasis. 
The Maedchen is more simple, sweet, and submissive, and less 
glamorous than her American counterpart. It is less a relation of 
equality. She is more apt, in the middle classes, to marry an 
established, somewhat older man. Related to this is another usage 
of titles, the fact that the German married woman takes not only 
her husband's surname, as with us, but also his title. She is 
addressed as Frau Doktor, Frau Justizrat, or Frau Professor. Would 
it not be legitimate to infer that while with us the primary emphasis 
is put on marriage to a particular man as an individual, in 
Germany it is put rather on his formal status. The significant 


thing is not that she is the wife of John Smith, but of a professor. 
The impression further is that the marriage relationship typically 
involves more impersonal attitudes, less emphasis on being "in 
love," as well as greater inequality so that to a certain extent the 
wife is classed with her children by contrast with the authority 
of the husband. 

Rather generally speaking, there seems to be in Germany a good 
deal sharper segregation of the roles of the sexes than in the 
United States. With this, however, goes as a significant counter- 
part a strong tendency to emphasize, indeed to romanticize, the 
relationship of men to one another. On one level Bruederschaft, 
with its ritual oath and its symbolic use of Du as the form of 
address, is much more sharply emphasized than any particular 
form of masculine friendship with us, and seems to be invested 
with a very intense emotional significance. On another, comrade- 
ship, of which the relation of soldiers in the field is perhaps the 
prototype, is particularly idealized. Thus the main emphasis in 
the German Youth Movement was a romantic idealization of 
solidary groups of young men— sometimes with at least an under- 
current of homosexualit)\ The closest counterpart in our society 
is the romantization of the cross-sex love relationship. 

The reader may quite reasonably ask what is gained by dwell- 
ing at such length on all these features of pre-Nazi German social 
structure, all of which are very well known, and a good many 
of which seem to have little to do with the issue of Germany's 
relation to democracy. The justification lies in the fact that they 
need to be brought to mind because of their bearing on what is 
doubtless still to many a very puzzling problem. We have seen 
that in many fundamental respects the social structure of Germany 
has been very similar to that of other Western industrial societies. 
Until 1918, to be sure, it did not have a democratic constitution 
politically, but surely it has become a commonplace of social 
science that the mere formal provisions of the constitution are 
quite secondary to the deeper-lying social structure. In that respect 
perhaps the most important feature of the German state, its 
administrative bureaucracy, was very far from being in radical 
conflict with at least liberal if not democratic patterns. Indeed, 
by contrast particularly with the American spoils system of the 
same era it might be considered to be in closer line with our own 
idealistic values because of its scrupulous adherence to the im- 


partial "rule of law." Moreover, the collectivistic, if somewhat 
paternalistic, social welfare tendencies of the German state could 
go far to mitigate the more extreme consequences of rampant 
individualistic capitalism as it was found particularly in the 
United States. Then the one important thing would seem to have 
been the removal from power of the "feudal" elements of the old 
regime, an end which for all practical purposes was achieved with 
the revolution of 1918. The question is, why did this solution fail 
to stick, why did not Germany continue in what many have thought 
to be the main line of the evolution of Western society, the pro- 
gressive approach to the realization of "liberal-democratic" patterns 
and values? 

There can be no doubt that various kinds of external factors 
such as the treatment of Germany by the Allies after the last war, 
economic difficulties both in international trade and finance and 
internally to Germany and the like, played an important part. 
Perhaps these factors were even decisive in the sense that a more 
favorable set of circumstances in these respects would have tipped 
the total balance of forces so as to permit the democratic trend of 
evolution to continue uninterrupted. No doubt also the develop- 
ment of the relations of capital and labor, in the sense in which 
that tension is structurally inherent in all capitalistic industrial 
economies, played an important part. The Weimar regime put the 
Trade Unions and the parties of the left in a position of greatly 
enhanced power; wages were continually pushed up; and un- 
doubtedly many business people became frightened and were 
ready to accept almost anything which would protect them from 
the danger of expropriation. Their fear was greatly enhanced by 
the ideological appeal to the danger of Gommunism which has 
been to a considerable degree effective in all the capitalistic 

But German National Socialism is a grand scale movement of a 
very particular type. It is, to be sure, nationalistic in opposition 
to the national humiliation and alleged submission to the enemies 
of Germany for which it purports to hold the men of Versailles 
and Weimar responsible. Tt is also anti-Gommunistic in that it 
purports to lead a great cnisade against Bolshevism and to purge 
Europe forever from this "disease." But it is more than either or 
both of these. It is a revolutionary movement which, both in 
ideology and in actual policy, has already done much to alter 


fundamentally the broader social structure not only of the Weimar 
Republic but of the Germany which preceded and underlay it. 
National Socialism arose in a situation which quite understandably 
could have produced a strong nationalistic and conservative re- 
action, a reaction toward social patterns which, though in conflict 
with the leftward elements of the "liberal-democratic" tradition 
of the Western world, need not have removed Germany from the 
general sphere of Western civilization. But Nazi Germany is even 
today not a strong, national community with conservative leanings, 
as distinguished from the leftward leanings of British Labor or of 
the American New Deal. It is a radically new type of society which, 
if not interfered with, promises to depart progressively more 
radically from the main line of Western social development since 
the Renaissance. It is in the sources of this element of revolution- 
ary radicalism in the Nazi movement that the interest of the 
present analysis is focussed. 

In our common-sense thinking about social matters we probably 
tend greatly to exaggerate the integration of social systems, to 
think of them as neatly "exemplifying" a pattern type. For purposes 
of sheer comparative structural study this need not lead to serious 
difficulty, but when dynamic problems of directions and processes 
of change are at issue, it is essential to give specific attention to 
the elements of malintegration, tension and strain in the social 

In the first place, all Western societies have been subjected in 
their recent history to the disorganizing effects of many kinds of 
rapid social change. It has been a period of rapid technological 
change, industrialization, urbanization, migration of population, 
occupational mobility, cultural, political and religious change. As 
a function of sheer rapidity of change which does not allow suffi- 
cient time to "settle down," the result is the widespread insecurity 
—in the psychological, not only the economic sense— of a large 
proportion of the population, with the well-known consequences 
of anxiety, a good deal of free-floating aggression, a tendency to un- 
stable emotionalism and susceptibility to emotionalized propaganda 
appeals and mobilization of affect around various kinds of symbols. 
If anything, this factor has been more prominent in Germany than 
elsewhere in that the processes of industrialization and urbaniza- 
tion were particularly rapid there. In addition, the strain and 
social upset of the last war were probably more severe than in 


the case of any other belhgerent except Russia. On top of that 
came the poHtical difficulties after 1918 and the inflation, finally 
exceedingly severe economic depression in the early thirties. Such 
a situation predisposes to radical emotional dissociation from the 
principal institutional statuses and roles of the existing order, 
but does not of itself give any clue to the direction which the 
structuring of definitions will take. 

A second element of the situation is also common to all Western 
countries, but also perhaps somewhat more intense in Germany 
than elsewhere. A major aspect of the dynamic process of develop- 
ment in Western society ever since the Middle Ages has been a 
particular form of what Max Weber called the "process of rational- 
ization." One of its central foci has been the continual development 
of science and the technologies derived from it in industry, in 
medicine, and in other fields. Closely related has been the develop- 
ment of bureaucratic organization, of economic exchange, and of 
the orientation of economic activity to capitalistic monetary cal- 
culation. Various aspects of the cultural tradition have also been 
affected in the form of the secularization of religious values, 
emancipation from traditional patterns of morality, especially in 
Christian form, and the general tendency of rational criticism to 
undermine traditional and conservative systems of symbols. 

This process, looked at from the point of view of its dynamic 
impact on the social system, rather than the absolute significance 
of rationalistic patterns, has an uneven incidence on different 
elements in the social structure. In the first place, it tends to 
divide elements of the population according to whether they 
tend toward what are, in rationalistic terms, the more "progres- 
sive" or "emancipated" values of patterns of conduct, or the more 
conservative "backward," or traditional patterns. This introduces a 
basis of fundamental structuring in the differentiation of attitudes. 
It is a basis which also tends to coincide with other bases of 
strain in the structuring of interests, especially in that "capitalism" 
tends to be predominantly a phenomenon of emancipation which 
grows up at the expense of the "good old ways" and sound estab- 
lished values. 

But not only does the process of rationalization structure atti- 
tudes. It is precisely the further effects of the dynamic process 
of change which are most important in this connection. In part 
this process is a principal source of the disorganization and inse- 


curity discussed above as involved in anomie. In so far, however, 
as such disorganization is not specifically structured in other ways, 
it and its behavioral manisfestations tend to become structured in 
terms of their relation to this process. Hence manisfestations of 
these polar attitude patterns tend to bear the marks of psycho- 
logical insecurity, to be "overdetermined." This is true on both 
sides: on the emancipated side in the form of a tendency to a 
compulsive "debunking" and denial of any elements of legitimacy 
to all traditional patterns, on the traditional side of a "fundamental- 
ist" obstruction to all progress, a traditionalist literalism with 
strongly emotional attitudes.* 

Though general to the Western world this situation has probably 
been more extreme in Germany because, relative to Western 
Europe and the United States, it has been more "conservative." 
Hence the impact of science, industrialism and such phenomena 
has been more unsettling and has led to more drastic extremes 
of attitudes. One significant symptom of this fact is to be found 
in the conspicuously greater tendency of German social thought 
to repudiate the primary rationalistic and emancipated ideological 
structures which have dominated the intellectual traditions of 
France and England. There has been conspicuously less intellec- 
tual "liberalism" in Germany— the obverse of the predominant 
"conservative" tendencies being the extreme of rationalistic radi- 
calism found in Marxism. 

One conspicuous tendency in this connection is for "fundamental- 
ist" sentiments to crystallize about phenomena symbolic of the 
extremer forms of emancipation in defining what was dangerous to 
society. The coincidence in Nazi ideology of the Jews, capitalism, 
bolshevism, anti-religious secularism, internationalism, moral laxity, 
and emancipation of women as a single class of things to be 
energetically combatted is strongly indicative of this structuring. 

In combination with certain peculiarities of the German cultural 
tradition, this situation helps to account for the fact that the 
German labor movement was considerably more extreme in the 
radical rationalistic direction than its counterparts in the Anglo- 
Saxon countries. Long before the British movement it was com- 
mitted to a political socialist program, and this came to be 
formulated in terms of the strict Marxist ideology which, above all. 

^ This is, in the sense of Bateson, a particularly good example of the 
process of "Schismogenesis." See Gregory Bateson, Naven. 


required drastic repudiation of traditional religious values. This 
undoubtedly made it easier for the labor movement to be defined 
as "dangerously radical" to the rest of the population, even apart 
from the growth of the Communist element during the later 
Weimar years. 

One of the most important reactions to elements of strain of 
the sort just discussed, and certain more specific ones which will 
be taken up presently, is the formation of patterns of wishes or 
idealized hopes which, in the majority of cases, the established 
institutional patterns and their attendant situations do not permit 
to be fully realized. They hence tend to be projected outside the 
immediate social situation into some form of "idealized" life or 
existence. Since they are the results of certain emotional tensions 
which develop only in so far as people are imperfectly integrated 
with an institutionalized situation, they tend to involve a con- 
spicuous element of "irrealism." They are associated with a nega- 
tive valuation of the existing situation and, instead of a "realistic" 
orientation to its alteration in the direction of greater conformity 
with an ideal, involve an element of "escape." This phenomenon 
may be called "romanticism"— its essence is the dissociation of the 
strongest emotional values from established life situations— in the 
past or the future or altogether outside ordinary social life.^ A 
most important question about any social system is that of its 
general predisposition to romanticism, and of the specific ways 
in which this tendency is structured. 

In the Anglo-Saxon world it is probably true that there is on 
the whole a smaller predisposition to romanticism than in Germany 
because patterns which, in important respects, go back to Puritan- 
ism, canalize the orientation of action more in the direction of 
taking active responsibility for translating ideal patterns into reality. 
Associated with this, however, is a marked tendency to a kind of 
"utopianism," an attraction for many sorts of unrealistic blueprints 
for the "ideal society" where there will be perpetual peace, an 
elimination of all inequalities, of all irrationality or superstition, 
etc. This is a kind of romanticism which helps explain the appeal 
of the rationalistic movements of the left in these countries. In 
addition to that, however, there are two very important patterns 
of "individualistic" romanticism, the romanticism of personal "suc- 
cess" and romantic love. A very prevalent theme of American 

5 Perhaps only when the content of the "dream pattern" is secular should 
the term ' romanticism" be used. Certain elements of other— worldly religious 
ideals are, however, closely related in psychological significance. 


fiction is the boy whose abihties were such that he was bound 
to succeed. Its prevalence suggests a very high level of emotional 
investment in occupational functions. It is a pattern which, by 
contrast with the German, is also associated with the relative 
lack of formalism in our occupational system. Occupational func- 
tions are treated— however unrealistically— more as a matter of 
ability and achievement, and less as a matter of status for its 
own sake. The prominence of the pattern of romantic love, again 
however unrealistic it is, seems to indicate a particularly strong 
emphasis on the fusion of the sex relationship with the strongest 
bonds of personal intimacy and loyalty. That this is made the 
dominant ideal precisely of marriage, again relatively disregarding 
status as such, is striking. Both these romantic tendencies of Ameri- 
can society, it may be noted, are not closely related to any form 
of political radicalism but tend, except in so far as their lack of 
realism leads to disillusionment, to reinforce the dominant insti- 
tutional structure— or at least not to undermine it in a politcial 

The element of formalism in the patterning of the basic insti- 
tutional system of Germany, which was discussed at some length 
above, seems to indicate a stronger general tendency to romanti- 
cism than exists in the Anglo-Saxon countries, in that institution- 
alized status tends to absorb less of the individual's emotional 
attachment. It is as if it were said: status is only; after all 
the most important things lie elsewhere. This impression is con- 
firmed by the fact that Germany, precisely in the time when she 
was not dominated by a radical political movement, was known 
as the land of poets, philosophers and dreamers, of religious mysti- 
cism, of music. It has also been a land of peculiarly strong reaction 
against "bourgeois" values, an attitude which socialists and radicals, 
bohemian artists and intellectuals, and the Youth Movement have 
all had in common. Surely in recent times precisely the world of 
formal status structure has been the core of these bourgeois values.® 

6 Though there is no space available here to develop the point, it may be 
noted that there is strong evidence of a close connection between this com- 
bination of formalism and a tendency to romanticism, and the heritage of 
Lutheran Protestantism, precisely as distinguished from Calvinistic. For the 
Lutheran the true spiritual values could not be embodied in secular life, 
but only in the individual's completely intimate and personal communion 
with God. Secular duties were divinely ordained and conscientiously to be 
performed, above all the duty of submission to authority, but secular achieve- 
ment was in no sense the real business of life, even in the service of the 
most exalted ideals. The world was essentially evil and could not be made 
a "Kingdom of God on Earth." 


At the same time there were important structural reasons why 
two of the most important manifestations of romanticism in the 
Anglo-Saxon world could not be so important in Germany. A 
dominance of the personal success ideal was in conflict with the 
formalism of the status structure, as well as with the dominant 
position in the prestige scale of hereditary status groups. A corres- 
ponding role of the romantic love pattern was in part blocked 
by the connection of marriage with the formal status system, in 
part by the related difference in the definition of sex roles which 
made it difficult for a man and woman to be treated as equals in 
respect to the most profound emotional commitments of life. The 
kind of attachment to a woman which we idealize in the romantic 
pattern would, to most Germans, seem possible only to a soft, 
effeminate type of man, certainly not to the heroic type. 

By virtue of its industrialization and urbanization, however, and 
of the impact in other respects of the rationalization process, the 
actual social life of Germany had developed for much of its popu- 
lation to a point where the older conservative patterns, especially 
in defining the role of youth, of sex relationships, and of women, 
could not serve as an adequate basis of institutional integration. 
"Leftist" radicalism appealed to organized industrial labor and to 
some intellectuals, but it had too narrow a base in the social 
structure to be stable. Sheer "emancipation," as practiced in bohem- 
ian circles, was not adequate and was too unstable, apart from the 
fact that both these phenomena inflamed conservative sentiment. 
At the same time among the middle class youth, among large 
numbers of women, and elsewhere in the society there were acute 
strains which strongly predisposed to romantic forms of expression. 
The other side of the picture lies in the fact that the German 
situation presented possibilities for a structuring of these elements 
in a radically different direction from that predominant in most 
democratic societies. The traditions of national glory were bound 
up with conservative tendencies which were generally speaking 
stronger in the German social structure than elsewhere. An aspect 
of this was the appeal of military values with a strong tradition 
behind them which could become romanticized in terms of a 
"heroic" ideaP of the fighting man who could be propagandistically 

'' Dr. E. Y. Hartshorne has particularly called my attention to the possi- 
bility that romantization among Nazi Youth of the heroic life— and of the 
Fuehrer— might have functions similar to those of the pattern of romantic 
love in the United States. 


contrasted with the money-grabbing capitalist of the "plutocracies." 
The whole appeal of nationalism could be mobilized in the same 
direction and combined with the reaction against all forms of 
dangerous radicahsm. The military ideal forms in the nature of 
the case a strong contrast to the bourgeois stuffiness and safety- 
mindedness against which young people tended to react. Finally 
from the point of view of German women, a heroic ideal could 
mobilize their romantic idealization of men in a pattern which 
adequately fitted the German segregation of the sex roles, as the 
man in the role to which, of all roles, women were by tradition 
least suited, that of fighter. 

To recapitulate: The Revolution of 1918 had the immediate 
efiFect of "Democratizing" Germany, of removing the "feudal" 
element and apparently bringing Germany at last into line with 
the other "progressive" industrial nations of the Western world. 
Why this result proved to be so unstable, so abruptly to overturn 
in favor of the most radical anti-liberal and anti-democratic move- 
ment of modem history, is certainly one of the most critical ques- 
tions of the interpretation of social events of our time. Certainly 
political pressures on defeated Germany, economic dislocation, 
and such factors as the class struggle must be conceded to be 
highly important. The above analysis has, however, attempted to 
indicate, if only in a highly schematic way, that an equally im- 
portant part has probably been played by factors distinctive to 
the social structure of Germany, in dynamic interrelation with the 
general processes of social development in Western civilization. 
From this point of view at least one critically important aspect of 
the National Socialist movement lies in the fact that it constitutes 
a mobilization of the extremely deep-seated romantic tendencies 
of German society in the service of a violently aggressive political 
movement, incorporating a "fundamentalist" revolt against the 
whole tendency of rationalization in the Western world, and at the 
same time against its deepest institutionalized foundations. The 
existence of such romantic elements is inherent in the nature of 
modern society. That, however, their manifestations should become 
structured in such a pattern and placed in the service of such a 
movement is understandable only in terms of specific features of 
the social structure of Pre-Nazi Germany which differentiated it 
from that of other Western countries. 


Some Sociological Aspects of the 
Fascist Movements 

THE OLDER TYPE, especially of European, social theory was, very 
largely, oriented to the understanding, in broad terms, of the social 
situation of the writer's own time. Whatever was sound in these 
older attempts, as of a Comte, a Spencer or a Marx, tended to be so 
intimately bound up with scientifically dubious elements of grandi- 
ose speculative construction and methodological assumption and 
dogma that the whole genus of analysis has tended to become dis- 
credited as a result of the general reaction against speculative 

In the course of such reactions it is not uncommon for the baby 
to be thrown out with the bath, for elements of sound insight and 
analysis to be lost sight of tlirough their seemingly inseparable in- 
volvement with these other elements. Perhaps in the last few years 
more strongly than at any other time have there been signs that 
warrant the hope of an ability in the social sciences to apply gen- 
eralized theoretical analysis to such problems in a thoroughly em- 
pirical, tentative spirit which will make possible a cumulative 
development of understanding, relatively unmarred by scientifically 
irrelevant or untenable elements. The very breadth of the problem 
of diagnosis of the state of a great civilization creates a strong 
demand for such a method. 

Perhaps the most dramatic single development in the society of 
the Western world in its most recent phase has been the emergence 
of the great political movements usually referred to as "Fascist." In 
spite of their uneven incidence, with Germany and Italy by far the 
most prominent centers, and their varying character in different 
countries, there is sufficient similarity to justify the hypothesis that 
the broad phenomenon is deeply rooted in the structure of Western 
society as a whole and its internal strains and conflicts. However 
much my own approach may turn out to differ from the Marxian 


this much must certainly be granted the latter— that it does relate 
Fascism to fundamental and generalized aspects of Western society. 

As a starting point for the present analysis perhaps the common 
formula of characterization as the "radicalism of the right" is as 
satisfactory as any. It has at least the virtue of calling attention to 
two important points. In the first place Fascism is not "old conserva- 
tism" of the sort especially familiar before 1914, although elements 
which were once conservative in that sense have often been drawn 
into the Fascist movements. Secondly, it is definitely of the "right" 
in that it is specifically oriented in opposition to the political move- 
ments of the "left," notably of course communism. 

Perhaps the most important reason why we are justified in speak- 
ing of "radicalism" lies in the existence of a popvilar mass move- 
ment in which large masses of the "common people" have become 
imbued with a highly emotional, indeed often fanatical, zeal tor a 
cause. These mass movements, which are in an important sense 
revolutionary movements, are above all what distinguishes Fascism 
from ordinary conservatism. They are movements which, though 
their primary orientation is political, have many features in com- 
mon with great religious movements in history, a fact which may 
serve as a guide to the sociological analysis of their origins and 

A second important feature is the role played by privileged 
elite groups, groups with a "vested interest" in their position. While 
from some points of view the combination of these two elements in 
the same movement is paradoxical, it will be argued here that it is 
of the very essence of the phenomenon and perhaps more than any- 
thing else throws light on the social forces at work. 

It has come to be a well-known fact that movements of religious 
proselytism tend to develop in situations involving a certain type 
of social disorganization, primarily that early though only roughly 
characterized by Durkheim as "anomie." Anomie may perhaps most 
briefly be characterized as the state where large numbers of indi- 
viduals are to a serious degree lacking in tlie kind of integration 
with stable institutional patterns which is essential to their own 
personal stability and to the smooth functioning of the social sys- 
tem. Of this there are in turn perhaps two principal aspects. In the 
first place there seems to be a deep-seated need for a relative stabil- 
ity of the expectations to which action is oriented. The aspect of 
this on which Durkheim lays primary stress is the sufficiently clear 


definition of the goals of action— there can, he says, be no sense of 
achievement in progress toward the reahzation of an infinite goal. 
But goals are, to a very large extent defined by institutionalized 
expectations. This Durkheim illustrated by the inability of indefinite 
increase of wealtli, once cut loose from definite standards, to satisfy 

Similar considerations apply to other aspects of conduct. Expecta- 
tions cannot be stable if the standards with which conformity is 
demanded are left so vague as not to be a real guide, or if the indi- 
vidual is subjected, in the same situation, to two or more conflicting 
expectations each of which advances claims to legitimacy which 
cannot be ignored. 

The second, it would seem somewhat more difficult and complex 
aspect, lies in the need for a sufficiently concrete and stable system 
of symbols around which the sentiments of the individual can crys- 
tallize. In many diflFerent aspects of life highly concrete associations 
are formed which perhaps in many cases have no great intrinsic 
importance in themselves, but in that they become stabilized and 
perpetuated through a living social tradition perform a highly im- 
portant function in integrating social groups and in stabilizing the 
orientation of individuals within them. 

The general character of the typical reaction of the individual to 
anomie is that usually referred to in psychological terms as a state 
of insecurity. The personality is not stably organized about a coher- 
ent system of values, goals, and expectations. Attitudes tend to 
vacillate between indecision which paralyzes action— and all man- 
ner of scruples and inhibitions— and on the other hand compulsively 
"overdetermined" reactions which endow particular goals and sym- 
bols with an excess of hatred, devotion or enthusiasm over what is 
appropriate to the given situation. Generalized insecurity is com- 
monly associated with high levels of anxiety and aggression, both 
of which are to an important extent "free-floating" in that they are 
not merely aroused in appropriate form and intensity by fear or 
anger-provoking situations but may be displaced onto situations or 
symbols only remotely connected with their original sources. 

The present formulation of the psychological correlates of anomie 
has consciously adhered to the level closest to the more general 
character of social situations— lack of definition of goals and stand- 
ards, conflicting expectations, inadequately concrete and stable 
symbolization. I am well aware that many psychologists find the 


deepest sources of insecurity to lie in the relations of the individual 
to his parents and others in the family in early childhood. The two 
approaches are by no means necessarily in conflict. There is much 
evidence that insecurity developed in adults from the sources here 
indicated affects their relations to their children and in turn the 
character formation of the latter, so that a cumulative vicious circle 
may work itself out. 

An increase in anomie may be a consequence of almost any 
change in the social situation which upsets previous established 
definitions of the situation, or routines of life, or symbolic associa- 
tions. To be sure, the members of some societies have average char- 
acter types which are better able to withstand and adapt to rapid 
changes than are others— but in any case there is a limit to the ex- 
tent and rapidity of change which can take place without engender- 
ing anomie on a large scale. There is ample evidence that the period 
immediately preceding our own time was, throughout the Western 
world, one of such rapid and fundamental change as to make this 

It was, in the first place, the period of the Industrial Revolution 
which, though going much farther back in history, tended cumula- 
tively to gain in force throughout the nineteenth century and well 
into the twentieth. Though in widely differing degrees, most West- 
ern countries changed from predominantly agricultural to industrial 
and commercial societies, a change impinging not only on occupa- 
tion but on the life of very large numbers of the population in many 
different aspects, especially in the tremendous growth of cities and 
the continual introduction of new elements into the standard of 

Secondly, and intimately connected with this, the society has been 
subjected to many other influences adversely affecting situational 
stability. Migration of population from the rural areas to the grow- 
ing urban concentrations has been only one phase of a tremendous 
and complex migration process which has necessitated the complex 
process of adaptation to new social environments— sometimes, as in 
the great bulk of immigration into the United States, assimilation 
to a drastically different cultural tradition with exposure to con- 
flicting expectations and discrimination on ethnic lines. A somewhat 
different source of strain lies in the instability of the new economy— 
the exposure to cyclical fluctuations with unemployment and rapid 
and drastic changes in the standard of living. Inflation and many of 


the social and economic e£Fects of war fit into the same general 

Though it is perhaps more significant as a consequence of than 
as a causal factor in anomie, the fact is relevant that not only in 
women's dress but in any number of other fields our society is to a 
very high degree subject to rapid and violent changes of fad and 
fashion. No sooner have we become attached to a pattern than its 
social prestige melts away leaving the necessity to form a new 
orientation. This is especially true in the recreational and other 
expressional fields, but applies also to political and cultural ideas, 
and to many fields of consumption patterns. 

Finally, the cultural development of the period has been preemi- 
nently one to undermine simplicity and stability of orientation. It 
has been to an extraordinary extent a period of the "debunking" of 
traditional values and ideas, and one in which for previously stable 
cultural patterns in such fields as religion, ethics, and philosophy, 
no comparably stable substitutes have appeared— rather a conspicu- 
ously unstable factionalism and tendency to faddistic fluctuation. 
Part of the situation is an inevitable consequence of the enormous 
development of popular education, and of the development of mass 
means of communication so that cultural influences which in an 
earlier time reached only relatively small "sophisticated" minorities 
now impinge upon a very large proportion of the total population. 

Returning for a moment to the psychological level of considera- 
tion, one of the most conspicuous features of the present situation 
lies in the extent to which patterns of orientation which the indi- 
vidual can be expected to take completely for granted have disap- 
peared. The complexity of the influences which impinge upon him 
has increased enormously, in many or most situations the society 
does not provide him with only one socially sanctioned definition of 
the situation and approved pattern of behavior but with a consid- 
erable number of possible alternatives, the order of preference be- 
tween which is by no means clear. The "burden of decision" is 
enormously great. In such a situation it is not surprising that large 
numbers of people should, to quote a recent unpublished study,^ 
be attracted to movements which can offer them "membership in a 
group with a vigorous esprit de corps with submission to some 
strong authority and rigid system of belief, the individual thus find- 

1 Theodore W. Sprague, "J<^hova's Witnesses: a Study in Group Integra- 
tion." Dissertation, Harvard University, 1942. 


ing a measure of escape from painful perplexities or from a situ- 
ation of anomie." 

Thus the large-scale incidence of anomie in Western society in 
recent times is hardly open to doubt. This fact alone, however, 
demonstrates only susceptibility to the appeal of movements of the 
general sociological type of fascism but it is far from being adequate 
to the explanation of the actual appearance of such movements or 
above all the specific patterns in terms of which they have become 
structured. It is this latter problem which must next be approached. 

The state of anomie in Western society is not primarily a conse- 
quence of the impingement on it of structurally fortuitous disor- 
ganizing forces though these have certainly contributed. It has, 
rather, involved a very central dynamic process of its own about 
which a crucially important complex of factors of change may be 
grouped, what, following Max Weber, may be called the "process 
of rationalization." The main outline of its character and influence 
is too familiar to need to be discussed in detail— but it must be 
kept clearly in mind as a basis for the subsequent analysis. 

Undoubtedly the most convenient single point of reference is to 
be found in the patterns of science. The development of science is 
of course inherently dynamic and has a certain immediate effect in 
progressively modifying traditional conceptions of the empirical 
world. It is, however, its application in technology which provides 
the most striking source of cumulative social change, profoundly 
affecting the concrete circumstances of men's lives in a multitude 
of ways. Again it is not only that the explicit formal content of occu- 
pational roles is affected— this is the center from which many com- 
plex ramifications of change radiate into the informal and symbolic 
areas of men's working lives, and into their private lives through 
changes in their patterns of consumption, recreation, etc. Whatever 
the positive value of the changes, they always involve an abandon- 
ment of traditional orientation patterns, circumstances and defini- 
tions of the situation which necessitates a process of readjustment. 

Though by no means simply an aspect of science and its applica- 
tion in technology a second dynamic complex is intimately related 
to it. It may be characterized as the treatment of a wide range of 
action patterns and contexts of human relationship in terms of 
orientation to relatively specific and limited goals. Perhaps the 
classic center of the complex is the field of "contractual" relation- 
ships, and its formulation at the hands of such theorists as Spencer 


and Tonnies provides the classic sociological characterization. Con- 
tractualism overlaps widely with the use of money and the wide 
extension of market relationships. This involves the enormous ex- 
tension of the mobility of elements essential to coordinated human 
action and the extension of the possibility of focussing elements 
from many sources on the realization of a single goal. Codification 
and systematization of personal rights and individual liberties is 
another essential aspect as is the clear development of the modem 
institution of ownership in the sphere of property. The question of 
where ownership is lodged is not the primary issue— but rather the 
concentration of the various rights which taken together we call 
ownership into a single bundle rather than their dispersion; and by 
the same token their segregation from the other elements of the 
status of their holder. 

By no means the least important element of this complex is the 
patterning of functional roles primarily about their functional con- 
tent itself with clear segregation from other elements of the total 
social status of the individual— in kinship, local ties, even to a con- 
siderable extent social class and ethnic adherence. Though promi- 
nent in the case of independent roles such as those of private pro- 
fessional practice this patterning of functional roles is most 
prominent in the field of large-scale organization, indeed without it 
the latter as we know it would scarcely be conceivable at all. 

The interdependence between the complex of science and tech- 
nology on the one hand, and that just discussed on the other is 
exceedingly close. Some schools of thought, as of Veblen and 
Ogburn, give the former unquestioned primacy. This is at least 
open to serious question since it is only in relatively highly develop- 
ed stages of the patterning of functionally specialized roles that 
the most favorable situation for the functioning of scientific investi- 
gation and technological application is attained. Less directly the 
mobility of resources through property and market relations, and 
the institutions of personal freedom all greatly facilitate the influ- 
ence of science on social life. 

Finally, science itself is a central part of die cultural ti-adition of 
our society. As such it is perhaps the most conspicuous embodiment 
of the more general pattern which may be called that of "critical 
rationality," differing from others primarily in the place accorded 
to the canons of empirical observation and verification. This same 
spirit of critical rationality has to an increasing extent ramified into 
many or even most other areas of the cultural tradition. 


Notably of course it has permeated philosophical thought and the 
religious traditions of the various branches of Christianity. In this 
direction two consequences above all have appeared— the ques- 
tioning of the cognitive status of the "non-empirical" elements of 
philosophical and religious thought, and the tendency to eliminate 
patterns and entities of primarily symbolic significance. The use of 
the categories of "ignorance" and "superstition" as sufficient char- 
acterizations of all thought not in conformity with the particular 
rational or pseudo-rational standards of the moment is an indica- 
tion of the basic attitude. 

The present concern is not whether the patterns of rationality in 
these difiFerent areas are in some sense superior to those they have 
tended to supplant, but rather the relation of their relatively rapid 
process of development to the functioning of the social system. It 
should be clear that their development is in itself perhaps the most 
important single source of anomie. Its significance in this respect 
is by no means simple and cannot be adequately analyzed here. It 
is partly a matter of the sheer rapidity of the process, which does 
not provide an opportunity for stable reorientation. Another aspect 
is the unevenness and incompleteness of its incidence so that it 
engenders conflicts in the social pressures impinging on the same 
groups and as between different groups. There is also the question 
whether, to balance its underminding effect on traditional patterns 
and values, it succeeds in providing even for the groups most thor- 
oughly permeated, functionally adequate substitutes. 

But beyond the significance as a source of temporary or perma- 
nent anomie, the process of rationalization has a further significance 
of crucial interest here. It is to it that we must look for the primary 
explanation of tlie structuring of attitudes and social organization 
so far as it can be treated as a response to the generalized condition 
of anomie. This question will have to be discussed on two primary 
levels, first that of the cognitive definition of the situation, second 
that of the differential affective appeal of the competing definitions 
of the situation which have come to be available. 

The process of rationalization would scarcely have been of pro- 
found social importance if it had not affected large numbers of 
people in the immediate circumstances of their daily lives. But as 
an essential part of the same general cultural movement there has 
developed a tradition of "social thought" which, in a sufficiently 
broad perspective, can be seen to be highly distinctive in spite of 
its internal complexity. It has provided, above all, two interrelated 


things, a diagnosis of the status of the society— particularly in rela- 
tion to the traditional patterns and structures with which the proc- 
ess of rationalization has stood in conflict, and a frame of reference 
for determining the proper attitudes of "reasonable" men toward 
the social problems of the day. Its functioning as the "ideology" of 
social and political movements is a natural consequence. In a very 
broad sense it is the ideological patterns of the movements of the 
"left" which are in question. 

Such a tradition of thought is inevitably compounded of various 
different elements which today we find it convenient to distin- 
guish. In the first place, there are certain elements of genuine scien- 
tific insight which by contrast with previous stages may be con- 
sidered new. Undoubtedly the "utilitarian" pattern of analysis of 
the division of labor and exchange and the corresponding analysis 
of the functioning of a system of competitive market relationships 
—in short the "classical economics"— is largely in this category. With 
the shift on this level from "economic individualism" in the direc- 
tion of socialism, especially Marxism, certain changes of emphasis 
on different factors have occurred but a fundamental constancy of 
cognitive pattern, the "utilitarian," has remainded. 

From the perspective of a later vantage point we can now see 
that in si)ite of the undoubtedly sound elements there have from a 
scientific point of view been certain shortcomings in this scheme of 
thought. Attention has been concentrated on one sector of the total 
structure of a social system— that of contract, exchange, monetary 
transactions— and others such as family life have been neglected. 
But even within the area of focussed attention the "fallacy of mis- 
placed concreteness" has, understandably enough, played a promi- 
nent role. The prominent patterns of thought have, that is, been 
inadequately placed in perspective and integrated with other ele- 
ments of a total social system. 

The scientifically relevant element has, at the same time, been 
closely related to certain patterns of value orientation— with both a 
positive and a negative aspect. In one connection the new social 
thought expressed a revolt against the old order and a rationaliza- 
tion or justification of the changes introduced by the process of 
rationalization. Its primary targets of attack have been traditionally 
established statuses of prestige, authority and privilege and the 
traditionalizcd patterns themselves which have been integrated 
with these. Positively, the rights of the individual both as against 


other human agencies and as against tradition itself have provided 
the main focus. A fundamental trend toward egalitarianism has also 
been prominent. Broadly the pattern can be described as one of 
"emancipation" from the control of forces without rational sanction, 
from unjust authority, from monopoly and competitive privilege, 
from the "tyranny" of ignorance and superstition. 

Finally, apart both from questions of science and of ethical value 
the tendency has, it has been noted, been to extend patterns of 
rationality into the metaphysical realm. Science has been taken as 
the prototype of all sound cognitive orientation and all elements of 
tradition not scientifically defensive have tended to be "debunked." 
Here of course traditional religion has been the primary object of 

In the earlier phases of its development this scheme of thought 
overwhelmingly embodied positive value attitudes. It defined the 
situation for the emergence and establishment of a new and magnifi- 
cent social order, for freedom against tyranny, for enlightenment 
against ignorance and superstition, for equality and justice against 
privilege, for free enterprise against monopoly and the irrational 
restrictions of custom. 

Gradually, however, with the growing ascendancy of the associ- 
ated patterns, in certain directions certain elements of the scheme 
of thought have with altered emphasis and formulation come to be 
built into a pattern embodying quite difiFerent value attitudes. This 
has centered primarily on the developed system of emancipated and 
rationalized economic organization. The liberation of free enter- 
prise from the tyranny of monopoly and custom has, it is said, led 
only to the system of capitalistic exploitation. The "profit motive" 
has become the object of deep reproach. Inequality, unemployment, 
and new forms of unjust privilege have been brought into the lime- 
light. Political liberation from the tyrannical Bourbons has led only 
to a new enslavement under the "executive Committee of the Bour- 

This new negative orientation to certain primary aspects of the 
maturing modern social order has above all centered on the symbol 
of "capitalism," which in certain circles has come to be considered 
as all-embracing a key to the understanding of all human ills as 
Original Sin once was. But it is important to note that the main in- 
tellectual movements within which this has developed have retained, 
even in an extreme form, the rationalized patterns in other con- 


nections, particularly in attitudes toward ignorance and supersti- 
tion— lurking behind which economic interests are often seen— and 
many other symbolic and unrationalized patterns of thought and 
social behavior. What in terms of the recent situation is "leftist" 
social thought is overwhelmingly "positivistic" as well as utilitarian. 

With the wisdom of hindsight, it can now be clearly seen that 
this rationalistic scheme of thought has not been adequate to pro- 
vide a stably institutionalized diagnosis of even a "modern" social 
system as a whole, nor has it been adequate to formulate all of the 
important values of our society, nor its cognitive orientation to the 
world. It has been guilty of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness in 
neglecting or underestimating the role of what Pareto has called the 
"non-logical" aspects of human behavior in society, of the senti- 
ments and traditions of family and informal social relationships, of 
the refinements of social stratification, of the peculiarities of regional, 
ethnic or national culture— perhaps above all of religion. On this 
level it has indeed helped to provoke a most important "anti-intel- 
lectualist" reaction. 

On another level it has "debunked" many of the older values of 
our cultural tradition, and above all the cognitive patterns of reli- 
gion, to a point well beyond that to which common values and 
symbols in the society had moved. Even apart from questions of its 
metaphysical validity it cannot be said adequately to have expressed 
the common orientations of the members of the society. 

But on top of these inherent strains a crucial role has been played 
by the emergence within the rationalized cultural tradition itself 
of a definition of the situation which has thoroughly "debunked" 
many of the institutionalized products of the process of rationaliza- 
tion itself. Surely the stage was set for a combination of this defi- 
nition of the situation with a reassertion of all the patterns which the 
utilitarian scheme had omitted or slighted— an acceptance of its 
own indictment but a generalization of the diagnosis to make "capi- 
talism" appear a logical outcome of the whole process of rationaliza- 
tion itself, not merely of its perversion, and the fact that in certain 
directions it had not been carried far enough. By the same token it 
is possible to treat both capitalism and its leftist antagonists, espe- 
cially communism, not as genuine antagonists but as brothers under 
the skin, the common enemy. The Jew serves as a convenient sym- 
bolic link between them. 

This reaction against the "ideology" of the rationalization of 
society is one principal aspect at least of the ideology of fascism. 


It characteristically accepts in essentials the socialist indictment of 
the existing order described as capitalism, but extends it to include 
leftist radicalism and the whole penumbra of scientific and philo- 
sophical rationalism.- 

The ideological definition of the situation in terms of which the 
orientation of a social movement becomes structured is of great 
importance but it never stands alone. It is necessarily in the closest 
interdependence with the psychological states and the social situa- 
tions of the people to whom it appeals. We must now turn to the 
analysis of certain eflFects of the process of rationalization on this 

The fundamental fact is that the incidence of the process within 
the social structure is highly uneven— different elements of a pop- 
ulation become "rationalized" in different degrees, at different rates, 
and in different aspects of their personalities and orientations. 

It may be said that both traditional and rationalized patterns are-, 
to a high degree, genuinely institutionalized in our society. Indeed 
the distinction is itself largely relative and dynamic rather than 
absolute, and both are functionally essential to an even relatively 
stable society. Some elements of the population are relatively se- 
curely integrated but with varying emphasis in one direction or the 
other. Thus the best integrated professional groups would lean in 
the rational direction, certain rural elements in the traditional. 

This difference of incidence has important consequences on both 
the structural and the psychological levels. Structurally it differ- 
entiates the social system broadly along a continuum of variation 
from the most highly traditionalized areas which have been least 
touched by the more recent phases of the process of rationalization 
to the most "emancipated" areas which tend at least partly to insti- 
tutionalize the most "advanced" of the rationalized patterns or those 
which are otherwise most thoroughly emancipated from the tradi- 
tional background. 

For these and other reasons certain areas of the social structure 
have come to stand out conspicuously. In the first place is the area 
of "intellectualism" emancipated from the patterns and symbols of 
traditional thought, secondly of urbanism particularly on the metro- 
politan scale with its freedom from particularistic controls, its cos- 
mopolitanism and general disrespect for traditional ties. Third is the 

- I am aware of the importance of other aspects of the total fascist pattern 
such as its romanticism and a tendency to etliical nihihsm, but cannot stop 
to analyze them here. 


area of economic, technological, and administrative rationalization 
in the market system and large-scale organization, especially toward 
the top, with its responsiveness to ad hoc situations and its relation 
to conflicting codes. Fourth is the area of "cultiu-al" emancipation in 
literature and the arts with its high susceptibility^ to unstable fad- 
dism, and its association with bohemianism. Finally there is the 
moral emancipation of "Society" with its partial permeation of the 
upper middle class, the adoption of manners and folkways not in 
keeping with various traditional canons of respectability, all the 
way from women smoking to polite adultery. 

The uneven incidence of these various forms of emancipation 
results in an imperfect structural integration with latent or overt 
elements of conflict and antagonism. These conflicts in turn readily 
become associated with the tensions involved in other structural 
strains in the society. In particular may be mentioned here first, the 
difficult competitive position of the lower middle class, near enough 
to the realization of success goals to feel their attraction keenly but 
the great majority, by the sheer relation of their numbers to the 
relatively few prizes, doomed to frustration. Secondly, the particu- 
lar strains in the situation of youth engendered by the necessity of 
emancipation from the family of orientation and exposure to the 
insecurities of competitive occupational adjustment at about the 
same stage of the life cycle, and third, the insecurity of the adult 
feminine role in our urban society.^ 

An element of at least latent antagonism between relatively eman- 
cipated and relatively traditionalized elements of the society would 
exist even if all its members were perfectly integrated with institu- 
tional patterns, if there were no anomie. But we have seen that 
anomie exists on a large scale. In relation to the above discussion, 
however, two principal foci, each with a tendency to a different 
structuring of attitudes need to be distinguished. On the one hand 
certain of the population elements involved in the spearheads of 
the processes of emancipation and rationalization are subject to a 
high incidence of it with its attendant insecurity. These elements 
tend to find the main points of reference of their orientations in the 
relatively well institutionalized rational and emancipated patterns 

3 A colleague (E. Y. Hartshorne in an unpublished paper) has noted 
that in Germany the most conspicuous support of the Nazis came from the 
lower middle class, from youth, and from women. On the two latter factors 
see the author's paper "Age and Sex in the Social Structure of the United 
States," (American Sociological Review, Vol. 7, October, 1942) reprinted 
in this volume. 


—in science, liberalism, democracy, humanitarianism, individual 
freedom. But being insecure they tend to "overreact" and both posi- 
tively and negatively to be susceptible to symbolizations and defi- 
nitions of the situation which are more or less distorted caricatures 
of reality and which are overloaded with affect. Thus negatively 
the traditional order from which emancipation has been taking 
place is characterized overwhelmingly as embodying ignorance, 
superstition, narrow-mindedness, privilege, or in the later stages, 
acquisitive capitalistic exploitation. On the positive side there has 
been not only a marked abstractness but also some form of naive 
rationalistic utopianism. The pattern tends to bear conspicuous 
marks of the psychology of compulsion. It is held that if only cer- 
tain symbolic sources of evil, superstition, or privilege or capitalism 
were removed "everything would be all right" automatically and 
for all time. Indeed there is every reason to believe that the psychol- 
ogy of this type of insecurity has had much to do with the cogni- 
tive biases and inadequacies of utilitarian thought as sketched 
above. It has contributed largely to the currency of a definition of 
the situation which contains conspicuous elements of utopianism 
and of distorted caricature. 

The other type of reaction has been prominent in those areas of 
the society where traditional elements have formed the institution- 
alized points of reference for orientation. There the principal sources 
of anomie have often been derived from situational factors such as 
technological change, mobility and ethnic assimilation with rela- 
tively little direct relation to rationalized ideological patterns. There 
insecurity has tended to be structured in terms of a felt threat to 
the traditionalized values. The typical reaction has been of an over- 
determined "fundamentalist" type. Aggression has turned toward 
symbols of the rationalizing and emancipated areas which are felt 
to be "subversive" of the values. Naturally there has at the same 
time been an exaggerated assertion of and loyalty to those tradi- 
tional values. The availability of ready-made caricatured defini- 
tions of the situation and extreme symbols has of course greatly 
facilitated this structuring. The use of such slogans as "capitalism," 
has made it possible to exaggerate the "rottenness" of the whole 
modern society so far as it has departed from the good old values. 

In the complex process of interaction in Western society between 
imperfectly integrated institutional structures, ideological defini- 
tions of the situation, and the psychological reaction patterns typi- 


cal of anomie, at a certain stage in the dynamic process of its 
development this new structured mass movement has come upon the 
scene and at certain points in the Western world has gained as- 
cendancy. It is perhaps safe to conclude from the above analysis 
that its possibility is at least as deeply rooted in the social structure 
and dynamics of our society as was socialism at an earlier stage. 

Before turning to another phase of the problem a word may be 
said about the role of nationalism in the present context. Though 
not, in terms of the "old regime," itself strictly a traditional value, 
the complex of sentiments focussing on national cultures has in- 
volved many of these traditionalistic elements— varying in specific 
content from one case to another. Ever since the French Revolu- 
tion a functional relationship between the rise of nationalism and 
the process of rationalization has been evident— they have develop- 
ed concurrently. 

For a variety of reasons nationalistic sentiment has been perhaps 
the readiest channel for the fundamentalist reaction to flow into. 
The national state assumed great actual importance. The actual or 
potential enemy in the power system of states, differing in national 
tradition, has formed a convenient target for the projection of many 
aggressive affects. At the same time many of the emancipated areas 
of the social structure have been defined as "international" and 
could be regarded as subversive of national interest, honor, and 
solidarity. Finally, nationalism has been a kind of lowest common 
denominator of traditionalistic sentiments. Above all, the humblest 
insecure citizen, whatever his frustrations in other connections, 
could not be deprived of his sense of "belonging" to the great 
national community. 

Undoubtedly one of the most important reasons for the different 
degrees of success of the fascist movement in different countries has 
lain in the differing degrees in which national traditions and with 
them pride and honor, have been integrated with the symbols of 
the rationalized patterns of Western culture. In the United States, 
on the one hand, the great national tradition stems from the En- 
lightenment of the eighteenth century — liberty, democracy, the 
rights of the individual are our great slogans. A radically funda- 
mentalist revolt would have to overcome the enormous power of 
these symbols. In Germany on the other hand the political symbols 
of a liberal democratic regime could be treated as having been 
ruthlessly imposed on a defeated and humiliated Germany by the 


alien enemy. National sentiments instead of being closely inte- 
grated with the existing regime could readily be mobilized against it. 

The second important element of the fascist movements, that of 
"vested interests" can be much more briefly treated. It is one of the 
most fundamental theorems of the theory of institutions that in pro- 
portion to the institutionalization of any pattern a self-interest in 
conformity with it develops. Self-interest and moral sentiments are 
not necessarily antithetical, but may, and often do, motivate con- 
duct in the same direction. Though this is tiue generally, it has a 
particularly important application to statuses involving prestige and 
authority in the social system. There, on top of the broader mean- 
ing of an interest in conformity, there is an interest in defending 
higher status and its perquisites against challenge from less privi- 
leged elements. For this reason the reaction of privileged elements 
to insecurity is almost inevitably structured in the direction of an 
attitude of defense of their privileges against challenge. For the 
same reason any movement which undermines the legitimacy of 
an established order tends to become particularly structured about 
an overt or implied challenge to the legitimacy of privileged stat- 
uses within it. 

Western society has in all its recent history been relatively highly 
stratified, involving institutionalized positions of power, privilege, 
and prestige for certain elements. In the nature of the case the sen- 
timents and symbols associated with these prestige elements have 
been integrated with those institutionalized in the society as a 
whole. In so far, then, as the process of rationalization and other 
disorganizing forces have undermined the security of traditional 
patterns the status and the bases of the legitimacy of privileged ele- 
ments have inevitably been involved. But in addition to this they 
have been affected by threats to the legitimacy and security of their 
own position in the social structure. This situation tends to be par- 
ticularly acute since the process of more general change is regularly 
accompanied by a process of the "circulation of the elite." 

It is in the nature of a highly differentiated social structure that 
such privileged elements should be in a position to exercise influ- 
ence on the power relations of the society through channels other 
than those open to the masses, through political intrigue, financial 
influence, and so on. Hence, with the progressive increase in the 
acuteness of a generalized state of anomie it is to be expected that 
such elements, which have been privileged in relation to a tradi- 


ditional social order should, within the limits provided by the 
particular situation, develop forms of activity, sometimes approach- 
ing conspiratorial patterns, which in these terms may be regarded 
as a defense of their vested interests. Exactly what groups are in- 
volved in this phenomenon is a matter of the particular structural 
situation in the society in question. 

The general phenomenon would seem to be clear enough. It is 
also not difficult to understand the tendency for elite elements whose 
main patterns go far back into the older traditional society to become 
susceptible to the fascist type of appeal— such as the landed nobil- 
ity and higher clergy in Spain, or the Junker class in Germany. But 
there is a further complication which requires some comment. 

The process of institutional change in the recent history of our 
society has brought to the fore elite elements whose position has 
been institutionalized primarily about the newer rationalized pat- 
terns. The most important are the business and professional elites. 
The latter are, except where radical fascist movements have im- 
mediately threatened to gain the ascendancy, perhaps the securest 
elite elements in the modern West. 

The position of the business elite has, however, been much more 
complex. It gained for a time a position of great ascendancy, but 
for various reasons this rested on insecure foundations. With the 
"leftward" turn in the movement of ideology its position came under 
strong attack as the key element of capitalism. With its position 
thus threatened by the leftward sweep of the process of rational- 
ization the legitimacy, the moral validity of its position was under 
attack, and its actual vested interests became less and less secure. 
From this point of view Fascism has constituted in one respect a 
continuation, even an intensification of the same threat. The threat 
has been made concrete by the rise to power of a new political 
elite with the means in hand to implement tlicir threat. 

At the same time fascism has seemed to stand, in the logic of 
the sentiments, for "sound" traditional values and to constitute a 
bulwark against subversive radicalism. Very concretely it has been 
instrumental in breaking the power of organized labor. At the same 
time on the level of power politics there has been a distinct area of 
potential mutual usefulness as between a political movement of the 
fascist type and entrenched business interests. This has been espe- 
cially true because of the fascist tendency immediately to mobilize 
the economy in preparation for war. 


The relation between fascism and vested interests in general may 
thus be regarded as a constant. In the case of the older traditional 
interests it is relatively unequivocal, but in that of business it is 
highly ambivalent. Especially where, as in Germany, business in- 
terests have not been closely integrated with strong liberal institu- 
tions the relationship has tended to be very close. But even there 
the movement can by no means be considered a simple expression 
of these vested interests and there are elements in the Nazi move- 
ment which may, in a certain state of the internal balance of power, 
turn out to be highly subversive of business. 

In such brief space it has been possible to analyze only a few 
aspects of the very complex sociological problem presented by the 
fascist movement— the analysis is in no sense complete. But perhaps 
it will serve in a humble way to illustrate a direction in which it 
seems possible to utilize the conceptual tools of sociology in orient- 
ing ourselves, at least intellectually, to some of the larger aspects 
of the tragic social world we live in. To consider the possibility of 
going farther, of predicting the probable social consequences, of 
possible outcomes of the war and considering what we can do 
about fascism in other than a strictly military sense would raise such 
complex issues even on the scientific level, that it is better not even 
to attempt to touch upon them here. 


Propaganda and Social Control 

PROPAGANDA IS ONE kind of attempt to influence attitudes, and hence 
directly or indirectly the actions of people, by linguistic stimuli, 
by the written or spoken word. It is specifically contrasted with 
rational "enlightenment," with the imparting of information from 
which a person is left to "draw his own conclusions," and is thus a 
mode of influence mainly through "non-rational" mechanisms of 
behavior. Hence the apparent justification of treating it as a psycho- 
logical problem, since psychology is the science of the mechanisms 
of behavior. But the same mechanisms operate in very different 
situations, cultures and social structures and in people with very 
different character or personality structures. While most psycholo- 
gists would readily admit the existence of such variations they 
would tend to treat them as matters of common sense. To the sociol- 
ogist, however, explicit analysis of these states of the social system 
provides precisely the problems he is interested in investigating. 
Why, for instance, have Germany and Japan become militantly ag- 
gressive powers while the United States has not? This is surely not 
in any ordinary sense a problem of psychology. 

Even in a single person the "social" component of his situation 
and personality cannot be ignored, although for some purposes it 
need not be treated as a set of variables. But most propaganda is 
oriented to the influencing not of single persons, but of large num- 
bers in such a way that its effectiveness will lead to an appreciable 
alteration of the "state of the social system" of which they are a 
part. On this level the structure of that social system is decidedly 
in tlie category of variables, and since there is every reason to 
believe that analysis of the dynamics of social systems is beyond 
the resources of psychology alone, scientific help from other quar- 
ters becomes indispensable. 

The first problem then, is that of outlining the principal elements 
of a social system, other than the psychological mechanisms of its 
component persons, so as to provide a systematic setting for study- 


ing the operation of these mechanisms and their concrete conse- 
quences, especially on a mass level. The essential components from 
this point of view may be said to be three, the institutional struc- 
ture, the concrete situation of action, and the cultural tradition. 

Institutions in tiie present sense are patterns governing behavior 
and social relationships which have become interwoven with a 
system of common moral sentiments which in turn define what one 
has a "right to expect" of a person in a certain position. The sim- 
plest way of treating the institutional significance of these senti- 
ments and expectations is to conceive them as applying to the 
definition of the statuses and roles of persons, that is, the "positions" 
in the social system, relative to other persons, to which they are 
treated as legitimately entitled, and the legitimate expectations of 
performance— including abstention— on the part of the persons 
occupying the given status. The institutional structure of a social 
system then, is the totality of morally sanctioned statuses and roles 
which regulate the relations of persons to one another through 
"locating" them in the structure and defining legitimate expectations 
of their attitude and behavior. 

Every social system is a functioning entity. That is, it is a system 
of interdependent structures and processes such that it tends to 
maintain a relative stability and distinctiveness of pattern and be- 
havior as an entity by contrast with its— social or other— environ- 
ment, and with it a relative independence from environmental 
forces. It "responds," to be sure, to the environmental stimuli, but 
is not completely assimilated to its environment, maintaining rather 
an element of distinctiveness in the face of variations in environ- 
mental conditions. To this extent it is analogous to an organism. 

Since institutional patterns form the focal structural element of 

social systems,^ it is of fundamental importance that in any given 

case the basic institutional patterns constitute a relatively integrated 

system and not a mere agglomeration of distinct elements or 

"traits." The structural interrelations of the different parts of an 

institutional system are closely interdependent with the "functional 

needs" of the social system as a whole which include, of course, 

the biological and psychological needs of its component persons, 

but also those structures and mechanisms necessary for the aggre- 

^ This proposition of course cannot be justified in the scope of a brief 
article. For an extended treatment of the problem see Parsons, Talcott, The 
Structure of Social Action; New York, McGraw-Hill, 1937 (.\ii and 817 pp) — 
especially Chapters X and XV. 


gate to function as a unit in terms of its own distinctive patterns 
and situations. Institutions are not independent entities— from a 
certain point of view they are rather relatively stable crystalizations 
of uniformities in the processes of action and interaction of human 
personalities. But in the present state of social science, knowledge 
of the institutional structure of a social system is as essential to the 
understanding of its functioning as is knowledge of anatomy essen- 
tial to understanding the physiological functioning of an organism. 
In neither case can the structure be derived, and especially its vari- 
ations from system to system, from dynamic analytical consider- 
ations alone. At best there is only fragmentary insight on this level. 

Implicitiy or explicitly then, sociological analysis must operate 
with a generalized system of institutional structure such that it 
supplies generalized categories adequate to the complete'- descrip- 
tion of a functioning institutional system. Although there is much 
difficulty in detail, it may be said that this possibility exists in cur- 
rent sociology, and it is most important to make systematic and 
explicit use of it. One of the commonest sources of fallacious con- 
clusions lies in the tendency to treat certain aspects of a social 
structure without taking account of their interdependence. Whether 
or not this abstraction is legitimate depends of course on the par- 
ticular case, but often, while plausible, it is not. 

Just as it is dangerous to ignore the interdependence of institu- 
tional patterns with each other, so is it also dangerous to ignore 
their interdependence with the other elements of the social system, 
with the situation of action and the cultural tradition. From the 
point of view of any given person the institutionalized patterns of 
his own society constitute one of the most fundamental aspects of 
the concrete situation in which he acts. In his role of son, husband, 
father, doctor, citizen or church member, institutional patterns 
define the goals he is expected to pursue, the means among which 
he may choose, and the sentiments and attitudes he should manifest. 
Conversely they also go far to define the behavior and attitudes he 
can expect from others with whom he stands in social relationships, 
whether they are previously known to him as persons or not. From 
the point of view of the social system, the institutional patterns are, 
in one principal respect, agencies of the "control" of the behavior 
of its members, in that they keep it in line with the established 
structure and functional requirements of the social system. 

^ Not in detail, but in terms of functionally essential aspects. 


Although institutional patterns thus involve very important ele- 
ments of orientation to the situations which people face, they are 
by no means exhaustive. With respect to the action of persons they 
fail to include certain factors. In the first place there is generally, 
although in widely varying degree, a range of toleration within 
which action, within an institutionalized status and role, can vary 
without being treated as "deviant," within which the specific details 
are contingent on particular personalities and circumstances. Sec- 
ondly, the existence of deviant behavior itself is a fact of paramount 
importance which is part of the situation others must face, although 
appropriate reactions to it, as will be seen, may be institutionalized 
to a greater or lesser extent. In relation to the non-human situation 
there is likewise a range of detailed variation, and of elements of 
change and uncertainty. Hence it is not possible to understand the 
concrete behavior of persons in a social system without reference to 
the concrete situations faced by its members. It should also be ob- 
vious that, since institutional patterns and situations are inter- 
dependent, situational pressure may constitute one important factor 
in the modification of institutions. 

Finally, it should be noted that institutionalization of patterns is 
a matter of degree and that hence there may be an indistinct bor- 
derline where orientation to particular situations is only partially 
determined by institutional norms even within the realm where 
this is intrinsically possible. 

As distinct from its normative aspects, in relation to the situation 
of action, the principal function of institutional patterns may, fol- 
lowing W. I. Thomas, be said to be to "define the situation." The 
significance of a situation is never simply given in its intrinsic 
"nature"; rather a selection is made of those aspects which are func- 
tionally related to the particular orientations, values, interests, and 
sentiments of the person. A tract of land, for example, represents 
an aspect of the physical environment which would be quite differ- 
ently "defined" by a geologist surveying the topography of the 
region, by a farmer whose produce is grown upon it, and by a 
military officer interested in making the area secure against enemy 
attack, and these differing definitions would lead to correspondingly 
different actions on the part of each. Insofar as one plays an institu- 
tionalized role in interaction with other institutionalized roles, the 
alternatives for action are presented to him in terms of an institu- 
tional definition of the situation. 


There is, however, no rigid hne between what is given in the 
situation and what is imputed to it by the person, although if his 
definition of the situation is sufficiently seriously "unrealistic," it 
will entail pragmatic consequences. There is, however, a continuum 
between empirically correct, altliough selective, definitions, through 
various kinds and degrees of "distortions" to completely erroneous 
definitions. In the field of social relationships a still further factor of 
flexibility comes in because here action is itself a function of insti- 
tutionalized definitions of social situations, so that the definitions 
are, within considerable limits, not anchored in empirical realities 
which are independent of the social system itself. Hence, there is 
an important area of "socially^ arbitrary" variation in the definition 
of situations. It is probably true that elements of unrealistic distor- 
tion of non-social empirical reality can become relatively stably 
institutionalized. Although imposing a functional handicap on the 
social system, this may well be counterbalanced by other aspects of 
their functional significance.'^ But if this is true where there are 
external empirical checks, it is doubly so within the sphere of social 
arbitrariness. What is, in terms of a previous set of institutional 
patterns, a seriously distorted definition .of the situation may well 
become very thoroughly institutionalized through an important 
change in the social system. 

The function of institutional patterns in defining the situation of 
action provides a convenient link between them and the cultural 
tradition, as well as between them and the situation itself. The 
cultural tradition is an exceedingly heterogeneous category includ- 
ing science, common-sense knowledge, religious and philosophical 
ideas, value patterns, art and other expressional forms which 
have an important degree of general acceptance and continuity in 
a social system, even though the acceptance is uneven, and the 
continuity involves continual change, so long as it is not mere ran- 
dom variation. What they have in common is their "ideal" existence, 
the fact that they are "eternal" objects, as such neither physi- 

3 Although not in the same sense or degree individually arbitrary. 

4 For example, there is reason to believe that the attitudes toward health 
and disease ofTicially held by the Christian Science church are not merely "one 
view" but in the hght of medical science contains important elements of posi- 
tive error and distortion of established truth. But it does not follow from this, 
if true, that Christian Scientists as a group are in the same proportion an 
"unhealtliy" or disturbing element in the social system. Orientation to health 
and disease is only one of many factors which would have to be taken into 
account in arriving at a judgment on such a question. And certainly their 
position is quite firmly institutionalized within their own group. 


cal nor social, which stand in relation to systems of human action. 
The functional relation of the different elements of a cultural tra- 
dition to social action is exceedingly varied, but there is always 
some degree of integration both as between themselves and with 
the other elements of action. 

Since institutional patterns consist of norms defining what action 
and attitudes are legitimately expected of people, they are, in one 
aspect, actually part of the cultural tradition. In the aspect of in- 
stitutionalized patterns they have, to quote Durkheim, a "constrain- 
ing" or controlling influence on action, while in the role of part of 
the cultural tradition they are involved in the different standards 
by which its elements are evaluated and subject to selective pres- 
sures, in terms of cognitive validity, moral judgment and conformity 
with human interests and sentiments. It is primarily through their 
involvement in the cultural tradition that institutional patterns are 
interwoven with the primary orientation systems of the members 
of a society, with their empirical and non-empirical "beliefs," their 
moral values and the specific structuring of their goals and wishes. 

The primary focus of institutions is the definition of expectations 
with respect to action in concrete human social relationships. Only 
a small part, however, of the total cultural tradition bears directly 
on this field. Other elements are primarily significant in orientation 
to the empirical situation, or to the problems of meaning in relation 
to basic frustrations and uncertainties. Still others are primarily 
significant in symbolic and other expressional roles. Even these 
elements, are, however, subject to a kind of "secondary" institu- 
tionalization in that conformity with certain beliefs, or acceptance 
and admiration of certain expressional forms, comes to be obliga- 
tory and a test of full participation in certain social statuses. Hence, 
no part of the cultural tradition is completely indifferent to the 
balance of interdependent forces in a social system. 

A particularly crucial role is, however, played by those elements 
which are most closely involved in the definition of the situation of 
action. Of these, in turn, three important classes may be analytically 
distinguished, even though they merge into each other. First are 
the primary institutionalized patterns and values which, in the 
nature of the case, are close to typical action and social relationship 
situations, but often are not explicitly formulated at all, while in 
any case questions of "interpretation" and application to particular 
concrete situations are left open in an important degree. Second is 


the system of beliefs and orientations which give these primary 
institutionahzed values their "meaning," which, on appropriate 
levels, help to make holders of them psychologically secure. Finally, 
third, is the set of explicit diagnoses of particular situations and 
justification of actual or projected courses of action in them, espe- 
cially in those of critical significance to the social system as a whole, 
such as revolutions, wars and great religious movements. It should 
be abundantly clear that with respect to all of these there is, in any 
complex and dynamically changing social system, room for a large 
variety of factors of uncertainty and flexibility in many different 

Clarity and definiteness as well as integration of the different 
elements on both cultural and action levels, are, for a variety of 
reasons, of very great functional importance for the stability of 
social systems. They are, for equally important reasons, exceedingly 
difficult to obtain. Rigid enforcement of "official" definitions 
always sets up serious strains because of the difficulty of adapting 
to changes both in situations and in the cultural tradition, many of 
the elements of which are inherently dynamic, and almost always 
involves serious strains in the social structure itself. 

Every social system, functionally regarded, faces a control prob- 
lem on the level of overt behavior. Even a moderate level of the 
integration of the complex elements of a system of social action is 
no more to be taken for granted as in the "nature" of the human 
material which makes it up than is the analogous integration of one 
of the higher organisms in the physio-chemical nature of the pro- 
teins, carbohydrates, and other chemical substances which make up 
the body. In both cases highly specific mechanisms are functionally 
essential to the maintenance of the equilibrium of the system. The 
direct obverse of the functional necessity of integration is the exist- 
ence of many important tendencies and seeds of deviant behavior.^ 

5 It is impossible to take space here to go into the analysis of these seeds. 
One of them undoubtedly lies in the inevitable lack of full congruence between 
the distribution of hereditary constitutional tendencies in a population and the 
functional requirements to the institutionalized system of statuses and roles— 
any population and any institutionalized system. Compare Davis, Kingsley, 
"The Child and the Social Structure." ]. Educational Social. ( 1940) 14:217-229: 
Another lies in the fact that any institutional structure at certain points imposes 
strains on a person which are too severe to be adequately counteracted by the 
existing control mechanisms, but lead to deviant behavior by some persons. Still 
another lies in the fact that socialization at one stage of the life cycle probably 
sometimes positively unfits the person for the roles he must assume in a later 
stage. There are doubtless various others. 


From what is now very well known of the types of systems most 
closely analogous to the social, the physiological system of the 
organism and the psychological system of the personality, it would 
be surprising indeed if a highly important functional role were not 
played by control mechanisms, and if these were perfectly obvious 
to the "naked eye" of common sense. 

It seems to be inherent in the structure of human action that 
there are, fundamentally, two kinds of channels through which 
"pressure" to control behavior may be exerted— whether "deliber- 
ately" by any controlling agency or unconsciously is indifferent for 
present purposes. On the one hand, the appeal may be to what 
psychoanalysts call the "reality principle," and the mechanism will 
then operate through the actual or potential alteration of the situ- 
ation in which people act. It will consist either in revealing previ- 
ously unknown aspects of the situation, or in actually or potentially 
altering it to the actor's advantage or disadvantage through the 
imposition of positive or negative "sanctions." This mode of control 
is of course effective only to the extent that action is actually moti- 
vated in reality terms, is integrated, that is, in particular ways. On 
the other hand, appeal may be made to the "state of mind" or the 
"sentiments" of the actor relatively independently of potential alter- 
ations in the situation in which he acts. This in turn may take the 
form of an attempt, whether or not it is clear to the person what is 
being done, to change his "attitudes" or to influence his definition of 
the situation.^ It is in this latter category that propaganda falls, as 
one important mechanism for controlling action— not of course nec- 
essarily in the interest of checking deviant tendencies, quite possibly 
of promoting them— through appeal to the "subjective" non-situ- 
ational aspects of action. 

Further progress in the analysis of the actual and potential roles 
of propaganda would, in view of the preceding considerations, seem 
to be involved with analysis of the functional mechanisms which, 
apart from any deliberate process of propagandizing, operate in 

•> For reasons which cannot be gone into here it may be assumed that defini- 
tions of the situation which are markedly deviant from either empirical reality 
or institutionalized patterns or both cannot be "gotten across" through mechan- 
isms of cognitive "persuasion" alone, but must link up somewhere with senti- 
ments tlirough non-rational mechanisms. 

Underlying tliis whole problem is the very fundmanetal one of the modes 
and mechanisms of the "introjection" of institutional patterns, both norms and 
definitions of the situation, and their relation to the problems of integration both 
of personality and of social systems. 


any relatively smoothly functioning social system to control deviant 
tendencies, through acting upon the sentiments of actors. Before 
explicitly taking up the potential role of propaganda it will prove 
illuminating to discuss certain critical points in the social system 
at which it seems possible to impute rather specific controlling func- 
tions to aspects of the institutionalized patterns. 

Attention may first be called to the fact that control functions may 
reasonably be attributed to the most ordinary patterns of interaction 
between persons. Two primary facts seem to underlie this, that there 
is an essential factor of "resistance" to the fulfillment of normative 
expectations and obligations, so that stimulus from the actual or 
anticipated reactions of others has an important functional signifi- 
cance and, secondly, that the incidence of "neurotic" mechanisms 
and reaction patterns is universal although varying enormously in 
degree. In the first context tendencies to "laxity," to letting down 
standards, are checked by the fact that the actor is involved in social 
relationships in such a way that, usually both through situational 
and subjective channels, the tendency is at an early stage subject 
to check. For each person this situation is above all brought about 
through the complex of introjected moral sentiments which are 
interwoven with what is usually called his "self-respect." There are 
usually also important concrete connections with affectional ties 
and with other elements of sentiment and interest. This complex of 
mechanisms may in broad terms be said to operate successfully 
short of two main types of limits. On the one hand, one's deviant 
tendencies to laxity may become extreme enough and suflSciently 
interwoven with his character structure so that he ceases without 
unbearable conflict to "care" enough and is no longer adequately 
responsive to the explicit or implicit disapproval of others. On the 
other hand, there may be a more or less cumulative vicious circle 
so that the same tendencies are at work in a whole group of persons 
in such a way that the deviant tendencies of each reinforce those 
of the others, instead of performing the normal function of "bring- 
ing back into line." 

There seems to be much evidence that all the principal psycho- 
logical mechanisms which play the predominant role in "neurotic" 
character patterns constitute in an important sense exaggerations of 
"normal" reactions to situations of emotional strain. Neurotic "ag- 
gressiveness" in an exaggeration of normal anger at an interference 
with legitimate expectations, neurotic anxiety an exaggeration of 


fear in the face of real danger. What characterizes the neurotic 
pattern is, above all, an element of cognitive distortion in the defi- 
nition of the situation and, emotionally, "over-reaction," an intensity 
of afiFect which is out of proportion to what would be appropriate 
to the real situation,"^ But elements of this distortion and exaggera- 
tion are the most commonplace phenomena in the behavior of all 
"normal" people under various kinds of stress. What seems to char- 
acterize the normal person as distinguished from the neurotic is 
the relative absence or far smaller degree of rigidity in the relation 
of his reaction pattern to the situation. He is relatively speaking 
responsive to the "reality" situation. Hence, on the cognitive level, 
his rationalizations do not tend to build up cumulatively into more 
and more logically elaborated and "watertight" systems which are 
increasingly impervious to facts or institutionalized patterns, but 
tend to be corrected by reference to them. Emotionally, in a similar 
way, the over-reaction tends to subside, to fall into line with what 
is treated as a normal reaction to the type of situation in question. 
Now from the psychological point of view a vital criterion of 
normality is sensitiveness to the reality principle, or responsiveness 
to situational influences. But from the sociological point of view it 
is essential to keep in mind that one of the most fundamental 
aspects of reality of the situation consists in the actual and antici- 
pated reactions of other persons. On occasion these other people 
doubtless do "diagnose" the neurotically deviant tendency of the 
actor and act dehberately to counteract it. But it is safe to say that 
far more frequently they quite automatically and without premedi- 
tation—in so far as they are not neurotic themselves— react in the 
right way in order to help bring the potential deviant back "into 
line." The exact psychological mechanisms by which this takes 
place cannot be elaborated here, and are in any refined sense 
beyond the competence of a sociologist. But the fact that such a 
process of reciprocal control reaction is continually going on in ordi- 
nary social relationships, especially the more intimate ones such as 
marriage, friendship and close occupational collaboration, undoubt- 
edly has prime functional significance to the social system. It is 
one of the most important channels by which, as a dynamic process, 
the functional integration of the social system is maintained. Insti- 
tutionally established behavior and reaction patterns undoubtedly 

■^ In a very large proportion of cases these reactions result in significant part 
from the operation of the mechanisms of "projection" or "displacement" so tliat 
the affect is not really "appropriate" to the manifest object or situation. 


have, among others, this latent function, that they provide the right 
stimuH to other persons to prevent them from embarking on too 
widely deviant trends of behavior.* 

It is known, however, that the working of these mechanisms is, 
in any complex society, highly imperfect. A great deal of deviant 
behavior actually occurs— what then? There is evidence that every 
social system possesses more or less well-developed "secondary" 
defenses against deviance, with either or both of two immediate 
functions: either to bring a person back into line by processes 
inaccessible to ordinary social relationships, or where this fails to 
insulate him from reciprocal influence on others so that he becomes 
at least relatively harmless. It is in this light that a brief discussion 
of certain aspects of modern medical practice will be entered upon. 

The ostensible character of medical practice, its manifest func- 
tion, is as that of a machinery for harnessing deliberate rational 
action, through the knowledge and skill of highly trained experts, 
to the practical problem of cure, or sometimes prevention, of 
"disease" in the person, of restoring or maintaining his "health." 
The knowledge and skill of the modern physician have, moreover, 
consisted, at least until very recently, overwhelmingly in knowledge 
of "organic medicine," of aspects of the biological sciences and 
techniques based upon them. There can be no doubt of the real 
importance of these elements to the problem of health nor of the 
very striking achievements of modern medicine in such fields as 
the control of infectious diseases tlirough application to them of the 
findings of bacteriology and immunology— and more recently cer- 
tain forms of chemotherapy— and aseptic surgery, in considerable 
part also a result of bacteriological discoveries. 

The only question is that of the exhaustiveness of the conception 
of medical practice as "applied biological science," whether it is 
adequate to the total concrete significance of the relation of a pa- 
tient to a physician in its bearing on his health. There can be little 
doubt that there is a great deal more to it than that. 

On one level, recognition that this is so has been clearly implied 

in a formula which has been widely current in the medical profes- 

8 Functional analysis of this situation is relatively easy where it concerns 
the maintenance of patterns essential to the functioning of the particular con- 
crete reciprocal relationships — such as in a marriage, although even here there 
is much actual deviance. It becomes much more difficult when it concerns the 
maintenance of sentiments essential to a large-scale social system in situations 
outside the immediate experience of most of its individual members; for in- 
stance in a peaceable society, willingness— and actual emotional capacity— 
to risk life and limb in fighting for national interests. 


sion at least ever since the rise to prominence of "scientific medi- 
cine"— the formula that in addition to the "science of medicine," 
which may be taken to include the practical application of exact 
biological and biochemical knowledge, there has always been, in a 
position of great importance, something called the "art of medi- 
cine." This might most specifically be described as all those "intan- 
gibles" in the function of the doctor which were most important to 
the "human" problems of practice,— regard for the personal prob- 
lems and idiosyncrasies of the patient, the famous "bedside man- 
ner," and various things of that sort. The use of the term "art" has 
suggested that these functions are not subject to scientific "codifi- 
cation" and that they are most effectually carried out through the 
"personality" of the physician. 

The first of these presumptions has, for at least a considerable 
part of the area, been questioned by one of the most conspicuous 
developments of medicine in the past generation, that of psychiatry 
and the psychological aspects of the problems of disease. It had, of 
course, long been known that there was such a thing as "mental 
disease" where the pathology was not so much organic as behav- 
ioral; that is, people did not think or act according to social expecta- 
tions. But even here, with relatively little success except in a few 
cases such as syphilitic paresis and brain tumors, there has been a 
strong tendency to attempt to reduce mental diseases to manifes- 
tations of organic pathological states. But more recently much 
attention has been devoted to two other very large fields where 
what in some sense were considered "pathological" phenomena in 
a person have been treated as "psychogenic," the "psychoneuroses" 
and psychosomatic disorders. In the former group there existed for 
the most part— except in conversion hysteria— neither somatic symp- 
toms nor evidence of somatic aetiological factors. In the latter in 
one group, the so-called "functional" disorders, the symptoms were 
somatic in the form of pain or disturbance of function, but no or- 
ganic lesions to account for them could be found. In another group, 
however, it was found that very definite organic lesions could be 
made to respond to psychotherapeutic measures and aetiologically 
a crucial influence could be attributed to psychic factors. Thus the 
"psychic factor in disease"— an exceedingly wide variety of diseases 
—has come, in what are on the whole scientifically the most 
advaaced medical circles, to play a central part in their whole 
orientation to the care of patients. 


The fact that in all these respects both mental patients and those 
with functional or organic disabilities are, in a large range of cases, 
open to deliberate psychotherapeutic influence, not only opens up 
a very large field for the present practice but also for the future 
development of medicine. It also strongly suggests, and the sug- 
gestion is confirmed by much other evidence, that a very important 
part has been played in previous and also current medical practice 
by what may be called "unconscious" psychotherapy, that the way 
in which doctors have in fact handled patients has had an impor- 
tant effect on their states of health through their mental and emo- 
tional states as well as acting directly on the physiological systems 
of their bodies. Much of the art of medicine has consisted in this 
kind of unconscious psychotherapy. The same considerations also 
go far to explain the undoubted therapeutic success in considerable 
degree, of much, from the point of view of modern scientific medi- 
cine, "unsound" treatment of health problems, all the way from 
some of the current medical "cults" through Christian Science heal- 
ing to primitive health magic. 

The emergence of the importance of the psychic factor further 
throws into relief the fact, which has been more or less clear to 
many practitioners for a long time, that "health" is not simply a 
state of the biological organism, but is a matter of a person's total 
adjustment to his life situation. Not the least important among the 
aspects of this situation are his social relations, and at least one 
aspect of lack of adequate adjustment to others in the social system 
is its bearing on various forms of ill health. 

This further suggests that the conscious or unconscious psycho- 
therapeutic significance of the role of the physician is not confined 
to what, in the ordinary sense, the doctor "does" to or for his 
patient, but involves the specific structure of the kind of social rela- 
tions in which the latter is placed when he turns to medical aid in 
his difficulties. In other words, even if what the doctor "does" is 
therapeutically useless or even in not too great a degree positively 
harmful, the net effect on the patient may be therapeutically bene- 
ficial. How can this be? 

There are certain striking differences between the patterning of 
the role of the physician and that of most other roles with which 
the normal person is brought into ordinary interpersonal relations 
in life. The latter tend to be, like the "job" situation, either highly 
impersonal and very strictly functional, often involving an element 


of impersonal authority, or, if they are intimate they are, like the 
relations of kinship and friendship, highly particularistic and in- 
volved with a reciprocity of moral judgment and personal sentiment. 

The doctor is analogous to the patient's most intimate kin and 
friends in that he is a person who can almost without limit be 
trusted, both in the sense that his disinterestedness is assured, and 
in the sense that, often beyond even the level of personal intimacies, 
he can be taken into confidence in matters touching the most private 
and intimate affairs and sentiments of the patient. To a consider- 
able degree this "trustworthiness " rests on his reputation for tech- 
nical competence, as a person who can be relied upon to "help" 
someone who is in need of help. 

But at the same time there are very striking differences from 
the more intimate ordinary social relations. It is an essentially 
asymmetrical relationship in that the doctor does not admit his 
patient to intimacies with himself, does not "reveal" himself to the 
patient, physically or mentally. He is a person of a specific "dignity" 
who is "aloof" from the network of the personal relations of the 
patient, who does not participate in reciprocities with him.^ 

Although enjoying, indeed needing, this particular dignity, he 
specifically does not turn it into a certain kind of authoritarian role, 
above all he generally does not manifest moral judgments of his 
patient, but treats the case as a "problem" to be diagnosed and 
treated in a "scientific" spirit. The patient need not be afraid that 
he will be blamed or punished for his shortcomings; he will rather 
be understood and helped. Conversely, he will often fail to find 
approval or sympathy where in ordinary relations he would be 
entitled to expect them. 

Although the physician does not in the ordinary sense assume an 
authoritarian role, these aspects of the pattern of medical practice 
do endow him with a very important kind of authority. He is in a 
position to exercise great influence even though his "orders" are 
not, in the usual sense, backed by coercive sanctions. He has great 
prestige resting on the reputation that members of his profession 
possess high levels both of technical competence and of moral 

One of the focal patterns on which this professional prestige and 
its resulting authority rest is that of responsibility. As a technical 

8 Where he is also a personal friend there is generally a marked tendency to 
segregation of the two roles. 


expert he must assume responsibility in relation to all laymen since 
they are not competent to have a reliable judgment of his diagnoses, 
decisions, or therapeutic procedures. But the technical aspect of his 
responsibility is heightened in significance by its relation to the 
moral aspect. For his very technical superiority to the layman, in 
combination with the seriousness of the interests which depend 
upon his action, means that he holds enormous potential power to 
exploit the patient. 

A very notable fact about medical practice is the small extent 
to which enforcement of the responsible use of the prestige and 
power of the role is achieved by a system of formal controls and 
sanctions. Neither the law of the state nor the disciplinary machinery 
of medical societies plays a major role. Indeed what impresses the 
outside observer most forcibly is the ineflFectiveness of these controls 
and the lack of reliance upon them. On this level the medical man 
enjoys an extraordinary range of freedom. But the potentialities of 
abuse are so great that the existence of a ramified system of infor- 
mal control of the practitioner himself as well as the patient is 
strongly indicated. 

Acceptance of authority without coercive sanctions is under- 
standable only in terms of a fundamental trust in the person in the 
position of authority— what physicians call "confidence." This is 
true for any case of technical competence but is doubly important 
in the medical case because all schools of psychiatry seem to be 
agreed that it is essential to psychotherapy, in any form, conscious 
or unconscious. When one adds to this the very formidable element 
of uncertainty which renders the physician in a very large propor- 
tion of cases unable to guarantee success and in fact often exposes 
him to failure, the average effectiveness of his authority becomes 
very impressive indeed. It is highly improbable that the high degree 
of average confidence in physicians actually found in our society 
can be adequately explained either by realistic appreciation of the 
technical achievements of medicine or by the impression made by 
particular personalities as such. The institutionalization of the 
role is evidently of paramount importance. 

Returning to the case of the relationship between the patient 
and doctor, in by far the most sophisticated form this factor of 
"confidence" has been analyzed and consciously made use of by 
psychoanalysts, especially in their treatment of the phenomena of 
transference." Apart from specific interpretations and other positive 


therapeutic measures taken, a major factor in the therapeutic re- 
sults of analytic treatment is held to lie in the fact that the analyst 
is, so far as possible, a "neutral screen" on which the patient pro- 
jects his affects and definitions of situations in human relations. The 
very discrepancy between the attitudes the patient manifests 
toward his analyst, and what the analyst actually is to him, is a 
major factor in forcing the patient to analyze his own reactions and 
investigate the deeper sources of his failure to adapt to reality more 
generally. This "neutrality" of the analyst is aided by various de- 
vices such as keeping out of the patient's sight so that gesture and 
facial expression cannot supply clues to react to, and confining the 
relationship to stated appointments of stated length so that it is 
subject to a minimum of manipulation in terms of the patient's im- 
mediate feelings and rationalizations. 

Underlying all this is a most important consideration. In ordinary 
social relations it can be said that there is a mutual obligation to 
take the other party at his face value, to "take him seriously" as it 
were. It is this very obligation, and its reciprocal expectations, which 
creates a primary opening for the operation of the vicious circles 
which may eventuate in neuroses, for by distorting the cognitive 
definition of the situation by rationalization, by concealing— usually 
unconsciously— actual motives and putting up an acceptable front, 
one forces others into the fulfillment of the obligations of their 
statuses and roles although one is not "really" in terms of actual 
social values entitled to this fulfillment. The striking thing here 
about the role of the physician is his ability to avoid being put in 
this position. He does not "argue" with his patient about his ration- 
alizations and his motives; to do so would grant a status of reci- 
procity which he cannot grant. But neither does he accept the 
patient's rationalizations at their face value, and while he does not 
"refute" them, it is quite clear to the patient from his behavior that 
he does not accept them. This again forces the patient to further 
analysis of his own motives. 

It is clear that it is only in terms of a certain form of definition 
of roles that such a situation becomes possible. The physician must 
have some kind of authority which justifies to the patient his failure 
to treat him as ordinary people would, and along with this he must 
secure acceptance of his refusal to be drawn into the particular 
nexus of the patient, to become an intimate friend, a parent, a 
lover, or a personal enemy. On the patient's side the predominant 


element seems to be the definition of his own role as a "patho- 
logical case," and hence as in need of help. In so far as he has "put 
himself in tlie hands" of a physician he implicitly accepts the latter's 
authority, based on his competence and integrity and, however 
much at times he may rebel, accepts the obligation to re-examine 
his own rationalizations and underlying motives again and again. 

The therapeutic essence of the definition of role of the psychia- 
trist or psychoanalyst seems to be the ability to break through the 
vicious circle of rationalization and deviance of the neurotic mech- 
anisms. This in turn has two aspects. On the one hand it relieves 
the patient of certain pressures to which he is subject in ordinary 
life, notably perhaps the pressure of moral responsibility, but also 
more broadly of the normal consequences of expressing himself 
with complete freedom, either in the form of moral blame or pun- 
ishment or aggressive reactions, or of the acceptance of respon- 
sibility for maintaining and living up to the obligations of an 
institutionally defined relation in the case of positive relations. The 
price he pays for this extraordinary freedom, which need not be 
pleasurable, is the acceptance of a status of dependency, the admis- 
sion he is "sick" and in need of help. It is, of course, of fundamental 
social significance that it is essential to the pattern of medical prac- 
tice that this dependency should not be permanently maintained, 
but should be eliminated as rapidly as possible and the patient put 
"back on his own feet." 

The other side of the picture is the steady discipline to which the 
patient is subjected in the course of his treatment. While the fact 
that he is required and allowed to express himself freely may pro- 
vide some immediate satisfactions, he is not really allowed to "get 
away" with their implications for the permanent patterning of his 
life and social relations, but is made, on progressively deeper levels, 
conscious of the fact that he cannot "get away" with them. The 
physician places him in a kind of "experimental situation" where 
this is demonstrated over and over again. In both respects the 
therapeutic effect would not be possible without the institutional 
patterning of the physician's role which has become established in 
the Western world. There is probably more than either historical 
connection or intrinsic relatedness to the technical tradition of 
medicine in the fact that psychoanalysis has insisted so strongly that 
the analyst assume formally the role of the physician. 

What is true of psychoanalysis at one extreme is, with various 
modifications and many differences of degree, apparently true of 


medical practice as a whole, though of course in merely binding up 
a cut finger this aspect of the physician's role is for minor significance. 

This situation in medical practice has two types of significance 
for the broader problems of this paper. In the first place it is a 
particularly striking case of the existence of relatively unconscious 
automatic control mechanisms in society which tend to counteract 
the vicious-circle mechanisms of at least one broad class of deviant 
tendencies on the behavioral level. Psychoanalysts have tended to 
become relatively self-conscious about the positive therapeutic 
significance of the patterning of the analyst's role, and to use this 
quite deliberately, though even they are probably far from having 
exhausted the subject. But even in much practice of psychiatry 
there is relatively little self-consciousness of this and even less in 
most of organic medicine. Indeed at one stage the very efiPective- 
ness of the control mechanisms seemed to be dependent on their 
latent functions remaining unrecognized, on both physician and 
patient thinking the former was concerned solely with acting on 
the physiological equilibrium of the patient's body, through bio- 
logical techniques. 

Secondly, for the treatment of patients, as the case of psychoanal- 
ysis most completely and dramatically shows, the institutionalized 
role of physician provides a particularly strategic vantage point 
from which to apply deliberate psychotherapeutic techniques. The 
question then arises whether for mass tendencies to deviance, 
rather than individual pathology, there is any analogous vantage 
point or set of them which can be used for deliberate propagan- 
distic control. If there is it would seem likely that, like the role of 
physician, it— or they— would involve a considerable measure of 
latent, unconscious control function apart from deliberate control 
policies. It is, furthermore, reasonable to suppose that systematic 
recognition of the mechanisms by which unconscious control 
operates on the social level might contribute significantly to the 
formulation of propaganda policies. 

It has become clear from the foregoing analysis that the institu- 
tional patterns of society perform important automatic control func- 
tions on at least two different levels, that of ordinary "personal" 
social relations and of the institutionalization of medical practice. 
In the latter case it should be kept clearly in mind that not only 
does the physician "control" his patient but, in order to be in a 
position to do so, he must himself be controlled, he must adhere 
suflBciently closely to an institutionalized definition of his role, and 


to a situation which is enforced overwhelmingly by automatic, in- 
formal mechanisms. 

While the first type of control is broadly common to all social 
systems the second is, in an at all comparable level of development, 
peculiar to the modern Western world. In view of this fact it would 
be surprising if the fundamental structural and functional aspects 
of it should be confined to the one relatively narrow functional 
sphere of medical practice. 

By contrast with the area of "personal" relations, that of medical 
practice is particularly characterized by three broad institutional 
features. It is "functionally specific" as opposed to "diffuse" in that 
it defines the role with reference to a specific content of function 
and segregates this "area," that of the professional relations, from 
any other of potential relation between the parties. A physician's 
peculiar "rights" in relation to his patient, as to confidential infor- 
mation and of access to the body, are defined and limited by the 
relevance to the performance of his professional role, dealing with 
matters of health. The same is true of authority, which does not 
involve a generalized superiority of status, bvit is limited to the 
health context. Finally the physician's obligations to his patient are 
equally defined and limited by this context. He is not, for instance, 
under obligation to help the patient financially except in so far as 
it concerns making adequate treatment of his health problems pos- 
sible. This functional specificity is one of tlie principal conditions 
for "insulating" the physician from involvement in the patient's 
"particular nexus" or set of personal relations, which makes the 
previously mentioned "aloofness" possible. 

Secondly, the professional pattern is "affectively neutral" as con- 
trasted with a positively affective pattern. That is, in his profes- 
sional capacity the physician is expected to avoid emotional 
involvements with his patient, either affection or hatred, moral ap- 
proval or disapproval. He should be "objective" and "impersonal," 
treat the patient's condition as a problem, a "case." This again is 
essential to insulation from the patient's system of personal relations 
and plays an important role in making conscious and unconscious 
psychotherapy possible. 

Finally the professional pattern is "universalistic" as opposed to 
"particularistic." The patient is again significant in a technical con- 
text rather as a "case" than as a "person." it is not the significance 
of that patient as a person, either in terms of personal relations or 


of institutionalized social status, not "who" he is, but "what is the 
matter" with him, which defines the relationship. All cases of ty- 
phoid, or schizophrenia should be treated alike, subject to tech- 
nically founded variations, regardless of "who" they are. This 
universalism is an essential element of scientific objectivity and 
without it a high development of medicine as applied science 
would not be possible. 

The combination of these broad features of institutional patterns 
is, as shown by comparative study of different societies, very un- 
evenly distributed both historically and geographically. The exten- 
sity of the area of the social structure in which the combination is 
highly developed is, indeed, one of the most conspicuous features 
of modern Western society. It underlies traditions of civil rights 
before the law, of the freedom of the person, of contract and market 
relations, of large-scale organization in general and the structure of 
political and other authority as well as the development and appli- 
cation of science. Its functional significance is manifold and by no 
means confined to the type of control function which is relevant to 
this paper. It is, for instance, difficult to suppose that the institu- 
tional regulation of marked relations connected with the "one-price 
system" and the control of tendencies to force and fraud are very 
directly related to the "psychological" level which is most relevant 
to the propaganda problem in the sense in which the patterns gov- 
erning medical practice are. 

For certain rough purposes the pathological patterns in the per- 
son in relation to which psychotherapy has significance may be 
classified in terms of two elements, "rationalizations" and "atti- 
tudes." The first is the individual counterpart of definitions of the 
situation, or an important aspect of them, on the social level. The 
second formulates the "emotional" or "affective" element. From this 
distinction it is possible, in making the transition from the personal 
to the social level, to investigate what are rough functional equiva- 
lents in the social system of the control functions of the physician 
in his relation to the patient. Very great care must, however, be 
taken to avoid misleading analogies, and to base conclusions only 
on the actual nature of the respective systems. 

There is probably no such thing as deviance without some im- 
portant element of institutionalized definition of the situation. To be 
"sick" and thus an appropriate person to be the patient of a physi- 
cian is to be placed in an institutionally defined role. Two important 


things are, however, to be noticed about this. In the first place the 
sick person by the very fact of being defined as such is in a certain 
sense insulated from normal interaction with the rest of the social 
system. His role is by definition an undesirable one to be escaped 
from as rapidly as possible. Although he is generally not, like the 
criminal, morally blamed for his condition, it is not a 'legitimate" 
one. Above all— in so far as he is defined as pathological he is de- 
prived in the relevant respects of any claim to be a source of in- 
fluence or a model to emulate. Hence, deviance which takes this 
form is prevented from influencing the structure of the social sys- 
tem. In the second place, sick people do not compose a "group" 
or a "movement" but only a statistical class. It is in the nature of 
the role that its incumbents cannot become integrated into a struc- 
turally significant group. 

It should, however, be quite clear that the same fundamental 
psychological processes and reaction patterns are involved in types 
of deviance from an established set of institutionalized roles and 
definitions of the situation which lead to structural innovation, to 
the acceptance of shifts in the established definitions of the situation 
by large numbers of people which are definitely structured depar- 
tures from the norm, and similarly to inappropriate attitudes. The 
differences from the individual level here are two. Negatively there 
is successful avoidance of being placed in a social category such as 
the "pathological" which would deprive the innovation of a claim 
to legitimacy. Positively, attitudes and definitions of the situation 
become structured for large numbers in a sufficiently uniform way 
so that, relative to the existing social structure, the adherents of 
the new patterns form a definitely structured group. In addition to 
these mass reaction phenomena come others for which there is no 
counterpart on the individual level, namely leadership and social 
organization of groups, which perform important functions in crys- 
tallizing more or less diffuse deviant tendencies in specific directions. 

The existence of these possibilities of deviant structuring on the 
social level implies, to one familiar with the functional approach, 
the corresponding existence in the social system of automatic con- 
trol mechanisms which, however imperfectly they function, in 
normal circumstances somehow serve to keep the amount of devi- 
ance down to a relatively low level, whereas the elements of strain 
and disorganization present in all complex social systems would, 
without them, lead to far more serious instability. 


In the case of individual pathologies the subject matter of the 
rationalizations which are of greatest importance to the mainte- 
nance of symptoms tends to be focused primarily about the "per- 
sonal" problems of the patient. Problems of the definition of the 
situation for the social system as a whole are relatively remote from 
the more immediate preoccupations of the person and from his most 
concrete emotionally significant experience. On this account they 
are probably on the whole less rigidly determined by emotional 
compulsions, but at the same time both because of the complexity 
of the issues and the relative remoteness are less subject to effective 
control in terms of the reality principle. The combination of these 
two factors^*^ would indicate a relative fluidity in many aspects of 
the cultural tradition of a society which heightens the significance 
of the control problem. Moreover, in our own society, the promi- 
nence of the element of "rationality," of freedom from traditional- 
istic stereotyping, works in the same direction in that it deprives 
cultural tradition to a considerable extent of the influence of power- 
ful stabilizing forces. 

An approach to the problem of what sort of mechanisms operate 
to stabilize the cultviral tradition may be made by recalling the 
fact that the medical profession itself owes a very important part 
of its institutionalized status and thus of its direct and indirect 
therapeutic effectiveness to its integration with one fundamentally 
important part of the cultural tradition, namely certain branches of 
science. The prominence of magical healing in place of even rela- 
tively primitive "medical science" in most societies, and the place 
in our own of the health "cults," of innumerable health superstitions, 
and of such phenomena as Christian Science, strongly suggests that 
"heliei" in the efiicacy and superiority of scientific medicine is by 
no means to be taken for granted. Informally the degree of stability 
is associated with the fact that medical science is a part of the whole 
tradition of scientific culture, and of the associated fields of rational- 
liberal learning which is characteristic of Western society as a 
whole, and which has tremendous social prestige, especially in that 
it has become so strongly integrated with the way of life of the 
principal prestige classes in society. 

On the more formal side it is of very great importance that medi- 
cal training is placed under the auspices of the universities. This 

1^ That is provided there are not "watertight" technical criteria by which 
to keep "behefs" in Hne. Relative weakness in this respect is characteristic of 
almost all cultural fields, even of science. 


fact not only articulates the "applied" side of medical knowledge 
and skill formally with more or less "pure" scientific research in 
medical fields, the bulk of which is carried on in the laboratories 
of university medical schools and teaching hospitals affiliated with 
them. It also articulates the medical sciences with the other sci- 
ences which do not have primarily medical fields of application, and 
finally with other fields of learning, such as humanities, which are 
not ordinarily thought of as scientific. The universities, in short, 
are the primary formal carriers of the great Western rational-liberal 
cultural tradition. Direct affiliation of the medical profession with 
them— which is true of the other principal professions as well— inte- 
grates it directly with this cultural tradition. Medical practice is by 
no means a matter simply of intelligent men using their general 
intelhgence to deal with a certain type of practical problems. 

But perhaps even more important than this formal affiliation with 
universities is the informal integration, largely within the academic 
framework, with the general patterns governing the perpetuation, 
advancement, and transmission of science and liberal learning. Just 
as in the case of medicine, it is quite clear for this broader field 
that the integration of the broader cultural tradition is not brought 
about automatically by the intrinsic nature of the subject matter. 
There are many areas and elements of uncertainty in practically all 
fields. Even within the academically formal rubrics there is a very 
high degree of specialism which makes exact appraisal of achieve- 
ment difficult, even if it is intrinsically possible, and finally in the 
university faculty as a whole there is a very great heterogeneity of 
fields. One of the conspicuous symptoms of the need for control in 
this area is the chronic tendency for academic disciplines in almost 
all fields to split up into "schools." Careful study of these shows 
that they bear in large measure and to a very important extent the 
marks of operating psychologically as rationalizations. Although 
generally by no means without important elements of technical 
justification, the doctrines of a given school always show elements 
of bias which can be related to complex affective backgrounds. 

At the same time that this need for control is so conspicuous, it 
seems quite clear that it is not primarily accomplished by the 
informal control system any more than is true of the medical case. 
For instance the pattern of academic freedom gives the university 
professor a range of freedom in the conduct of his professional func- 
tion which is hardly exceeded by any group whose work is carried 


out in the context of large organizations. This freedom undoubtedly 
has important functions in lending him dignity and encouraging a 
high sense of professional responsibility, but it is also directly in- 
compatible with stringent control through the machinery of formal 
organization. Closely related to this is the institution of tenure. 
Once in the status of a permanent position, a university teacher 
can only be dismissed for "cause," which means gross malfeasance 
in office. In fact this sanction is very seldom invoked— perhaps one 
might say that there is as great a reluctance on the part of univer- 
sity administrations to resort to it as there is of medical societies to 
take formal disciplinary action against their members. 

The importance of the institutional patterning of the academic 
role for the present paper lies in the fact that included in the sub- 
jects of professional competence of academic men are precisely 
those fields of the cultural tradition which, in Western society, have 
been most central to the definitions of the situation which have, on 
the one hand, been institutionalized in the social structure, and 
which are, on the other hand, the necessary starting points for any 
deviant definitions which could conceivably help to crystallize im- 
portant processes of structural change. In this connection three 
groups of disciplines are of primary importance. Philosophy and 
theology have tended to be the places in which the more abstract 
and generalized formulations of basic orientations have taken place, 
including both intellectual ideas as to "man's place in the universe" 
and the fundamental ethical ideas. Secondly, law has the longest 
and most sophisticated tradition of tliinking with respect to the 
embodiment of common values in practical social relations. Finally, 
much more recently than the others, the social sciences, with vary- 
ing emphasis in different cases have been particularly important in 
the diagnosis of the situation of society, the meanings of various 
phases of its history and of tendencies to change.^ ^ 

Of course definitions of the situation on all of these levels are by 
no means in any simple sense a creation of the academic disciplines. 
They are far more deeply rooted in the institutional structure itself 
and in the related popular ideas and sentiments. But it is precisely 
one of the most important facts about modern Western society 
that to a very great extent the primary institutionalized bearers of 
its main cultural traditions and leaders of its thought are highly 

11 Specific cases of the relevance of these disciplines to the problems of 
"ideology" will be taken up in the second paper. 


professionalized groups without whose role the distinctive charac- 
teristics of cultural traditions would be very greatly altered. Hence, 
short of a very profound revolution, any important changes must 
articulate with them, especially with the universities, and con- 
versely through both obvious and obscure channels they undoubt- 
edly exert an enormous influence on the functioning of the social 
system in this context. Furthermore, this field provides a particular- 
ly striking illustration of the working of automatic control mechan- 
isms which are built into the institutional structure. 

The academic structure would at the present time seem to be 
significant overwhelmingly in relation to definitions of the situation 
rather than to the direct control of attitudes, though the segrega- 
tion is never anywhere nearly absolute. Historically, however, two 
great professional groups, the clergy and the law, have conspicu- 
ously combined these two functions in a sense somewhat compar- 
able to the medical case, although in relation to very difiFerent 
social functions. In the case of the clergy this was far more con- 
spicuously true than it is now in the time when the clergy had a 
far stronger position of leadership in the community as a whole. 
But even now it is undoubtedly of considerable importance. It is 
notable that in the critical situation in Europe in recent years where 
the government structure has come under the control of revolution- 
ary elements, the clergy have tended to become leading symbolic 
spokesmen of the historic values of the society, as in the case of 
both Protestant and Catholic clergy in Germany who have made 
by far the most effective protests against the Nazi regime, and just 
recently, in France, the clerical protests against the deportation of 

A particularly interesting feature of the role of the clergy lies in 
its transitional character between the medical case and others the 
influence of which is significant primarily on the social level. In his 
role as a personal adviser and spiritual guide to the parishioner the 
clergyman has long been known to perform functions which have 
at least an element of unconscious psychotherapy— most conspicu- 
ously of course in the Catholic confessional. But unlike the medical 
man he does it in a way which attempts directly to influence his 
parishioner to conformity with a system of values and religious 
ideas which define the situation for an organized social group as a 
whole if not the whole society. The medical man is using both the 
cultural tradition and the institutional patterning of his own role 


—more or less consciously— to influence the patient in a direction 
established as a goal by common values. The clergyman, on the 
other hand, is directly seeking to bring— or keep— his parishioner in 
conformity with a normative tradition, both to get him to accept 
the definition of the situation current in his denomination and to 
have the proper attitudes. 

In this connection it is highly significant that ever since a decisive 
point in the early history of Catholic Christianity the status of 
the religious professional has been defined as an "office." The 
sacramental authority of the priest did not inhere in any personal 
quality of his own, such as saintliness, but was derived from ordi- 
nation. It was an "impersonal" authority resting on integration with 
a universalistically defined tradition. Moreover, it applied only 
within the sphere of religious aflFairs and did not extend into secular 
spheres; it was, that is, functionally specific. Although the Refor- 
mation brought about important changes in the organization of 
religion, it did not disturb this fundamental pattern. 

It can be seen that this pattern of office with its segregation of 
the sphere of religious authority from the "personal" character and 
aflFairs of the incumbent has important similarities with the role of 
the physician. It is a role of a specific dignity and prestige so struc- 
tured as to insulate its performer from personal involvement with 
those with whom he has to deal. It lends him this dignity by virtue 
of the legitimation of a universalistic social tradition which, how- 
ever different in content from medical science, is still in many 
respects similar as a source of impersonal authority. 

In more detail it would be extremely illuminating, if space per- 
mitted, to analyze the similarities in the ways in which the medical, 
the academic, and the clerical roles exert a steady discipline on the 
people to whom they are subjected. The church service, it may be 
suggested, exerts an important influence in this way. By the doc- 
trinal content of sermons and scriptural readings it serves to stabil- 
ize the definition of the situation, while at the same time through 
the collective ritual observance in hymn-singing, prayer, and in 
other ways, it has an important influence on attitudes. ^^ The im- 

1- See Durkheim, Emile, Elementary Forms of the Religious Life; The Free 
Press, Glencoe, 111., 1947 (xi and 456 pp.), for what is probably the classic analysis 
of the social functions of religious ritual. Durkheim, by his concentration on 
primitive society seems to have neglected the importance of the definition of the 
situation. The analogy to psychotherapy, and the psychological mechanisms in- 
volved in the "integrating" influence of ritual would repay far more careful 
study than they have received. 


portance of the minister or priest as the focal center of this system 
of social interaction is clear. 

Both the service itself, and more broadly, it seems certain, the 
particular mode of definition of the clerical role, have an important 
bearing on the integrating functions of religion in society. In par- 
ticular its form in Western Christianity has immense importance for 
the influence of the Western type of cultural tradition. 

For two reasons a few brief words may now be said about certain 
aspects of the institutionalization of government, with special refer- 
ence to the problem of attitudes. On the one hand, it is the primary 
focus, in certain fundamental respects, of the integration of the 
national social system as a whole, and is hence of key importance 
to any consideration of the state of the system. On the other hand, 
for the same reasons it provides the most important single strategic 
vantage point for implementing any deliberate policy of control. 

The functional problem is particularly clear in this case, espe- 
cially to certain modern trends of thinking about politics. The posi- 
tion of government in the social structure is such that it more or less 
inevitably becomes the principal focus of whatever more general 
struggle for power is going on in the society, almost regardless of 
the particular content of the interest or "cause" which any group 
promotes. This is true of any complex society, but in addition our 
particular form of democratic government would seem to accentu- 
ate the situation in that it formally structuralizes the conflict of 
interests into a struggle of "partisan" groups for "power," that is, 
control of the machinery of government, and, short of that, "influ- 
ence," the ability to get governmental agencies to serve the inter- 
ests'^ of their particular groups. Thus the "administration" always 
consists of the spokesmen of some combination of interests, and 
various branches of government, especially Congress, are very 
much open to pressure. Finally, the intrinsic pressure of interest 
groups is accentuated by a furtlier factor. All structures or person- 
ahties with an institutionalized prestige status are to a prominent 

!•* The essentials of this phenomenon are independent of the quaUty of mo- 
tivation of the members and leaders of the group in question. For instance large 
elements of the backing of the prohibition movement may well have been singu- 
larly free from "self-interest" in the usual sense, overwhelmingly concerned with 
an application of pure religious ethics. The Anti-Saloon League was not on that 
account any less a "pressure" group. 


degree symbols on which affects are projected or displaced which 
are generated in connection with other aspects of a person's life.^* 
This phenomenon is particularly important in a complex, rapidly 
changing society where there is a great deal of personal insecurity. 
Its immediate effect is to accentuate the divisive tendencies of the 
formal recognition of partisanship. Prominent political leaders are 
not only supported or opposed realistically according to the eflFec- 
tiveness with which they promote or obstruct the interests and 
causes with which the citizen is identified. They are also unreal- 
istically inflated into heroes or bogeymen as the case may be, and 
hence ideologically the opposition between conflicting partisan 
groups and their leaders tends to be defined as far deeper than it 
really is. 

In view of all this it may seem remarkable that this system of 
government can function at all. The answer must clearly be that 
there is another side to the picture, that there are patterns vdth 
positively integrating functions. Informally there is much in the 
"democratic tradition" which has this significance. There is the 
acceptance of the results of an election as expressing the popular 
will and hence as being binding on the nation as a whole. Con- 
versely there are the formal constitutional and informal restraints 
which prevent those in power from using their power too much in 
a partisan interest, or from promoting that interest by illegitimate 
means, such as abridging the constitutional freedoms of opponents. 

There are also, besides the constitution itself, structures and pat- 
terns which embody and symbolize integrating functions for the 
nation as a whole. The Federal judiciary, especially the Supreme 
Court, is to a considerable extent kept out of partisan politics. Fur- 
thermore, elective oflBcers, such as the president, have a double 
character. On the one hand the incumbent is a party leader with a 
partisan mandate. But on the other hand his office is institutionally 
representative of the nation as a whole and its common traditions. 
In many ways this integral character is emphasized. To take one 

!■* The phenomena of transference illustrate this phenomenon in classic form 
in relation to the physician. The same thing, is pre-eminently true of universities 
which are everywhere the object of deeply ambivalent attitudes which are con- 
spicuously unrealistic on both sides— the prominence of "town and gown" 
feeling and the ease with which charges of ' radicalism" can be brought against 
academic institutions are illustrations of the negative aspect. A corresponding 
pohtical example of projection of negative affect was the "hate Roosevelt" pat- 
tern so prominent in the business classes a few years ago— surely not simply an 
objective appraisal of the New Deal. 


example, when Mr. Roosevelt made a radio address he was not 
introduced as Mr. or even President Roosevelt, certainly not as the 
Leader of the Democratic Party, but "Ladies and Gentlemen, the 
President of the United States" is the accepted formula. Similarly 
even in cases of the most bitter partisan hostility to the particular 
incumbent, a certain respect for the dignity of the ofBce is generally 
clearly discernible.^"^ The same can be said of many lesser offices of 
the government. In connection with many of its administrative 
agencies the element of partisanship is much less conspicuous. Even 
though originally established by partisan administrations, they have 
for all practical purposes come to be accepted by the public as 
a whole. 

Perhaps the most conspicuous phenomenon in this whole field, 
which relates it to the cases already discussed, is the tendency to 
the segregation of the two aspects of the government structure. If 
this did not exist there would be danger that the whole structure 
would be drawn into the partisan struggle and there would be no 
adequate structure of symbols on which to form sentiments of com- 
mon loyalty and integration. It is closely parallel to the impersonal 
components of the role of the physician on which "confidence" in 
him is focused, and to the academic and clerical roles as "repre- 
sentative" of an objectively impersonal cultural tradition. 

These examples are perhaps sufficient to establish in a general 
way that control mechanisms, the operation of which is not a mat- 
ter of the deliberate "policy" of any group, or even of their manifest 
functions, pervade the whole structure, and play an essential role 
in the functioning of the social system. In particular, in conformity 
with the character of its institutions and peculiar cultural tradition, 
society has evolved a complex of mechanisms of a particular sort 
centering in roles of high prestige characterized by universalism, 
functional specificity and aflFective neutrality. Medical practice 
represents one particular type of a much larger class of roles which 
is specialized in the direction of exerting a particular kind of influ- 

15 For example, at the time of the Harvard Tercentenary celebration some 
Harvard alumni of the bitterly anti-Roosevelt school would even go so far as to 
say the whole thing would be spoiled if "that man" were permitted to be present. 
But one very quickly also had occasion to hear the reaction, "After all, he is 
President of the United States," and for any academic institution to have the 
President, regardless of "who" he might be, as an alumnus and a guest could 
scarcely be treated as anything but an honor. On the same occasion a similar but 
for many perhaps an even more acute conflict arose over the official role of 
Governor James M. Cur ley. 


ence upon persons. The others in different ways suggest how analo- 
gous modes of influence on the social structure might be exerted 
by deliberately working "along with" existing control mechanisms 
as conscious psychotherapy takes advantage of the patterning of 
the physician's role. 

What has previously been called "propaganda" is essentially a 
technique which is capable of use in the service of any goal. From 
the point of view of the present paper, that of relevance to the state 
of integration of a social system, three kinds of propaganda may be 
differentiated according to their orientation to different goals. One 
type is "revolutionary" in that it is oriented to the "conversion" of 
people to a pattern of values and definition of the situation which 
is specifically in conflict with fundamental aspects of the existing 
basic institutional structure and its attendant values and definitions. 
The "propaganda" of a strictly otherworldly religious movement 
which wishes to wean its adherents from all emotional attachment 
to "worldly" things, including performance of the obligations of 
their institutionalized social roles, is revolutionary in the present 
sense just as much as is that of a social or political movement whose 
goal is revolutionary change in the social structure. 

A second fundamental type of propaganda is the "disruptive." Its 
goal is not winning people over to an alternative set of values and 
definitions of the situation, but undermining their attachment to 
the existing institutional system as such. There is of course a dis- 
ruptive aspect in any system of revolutionary propaganda, but the 
relatively pure disruptive type was developed on a grand scale in 
Nazi propaganda toward the democracies. There was relatively 
little attempt to convert Americans to Nazi values. It was rather an 
attempt to weaken them by playing systematically and deliberately 
on the elements of tension, conflict and lack of clear and confident 
orientation in their society. It tried to foment conflict, to undermine 
confidence in authority and leadership, to play upon latent feehngs 
of anxiety and guilt so as generally to paralyze capacity for deci- 
sion and action. Indeed this has, to a very considerable extent, 
come to be regarded as the type case of propaganda in general. 

But the same basic insights are applicable in a very different 
orientation of policy, that of "reinforcement," of strengthening at- 
tachment to the basic institutional patterns and cultural traditions 
of the society and deliberately and systematically counteracting the 


very important existing deviant tendencies.^*' Few would question 
that this is the direction that propaganda should take in relation to 
the internal situation since, in this great crisis, it is fundamentally 
preservation of continuity with the great traditions and institutional 
patterns of Western society which is at stake. 

Shaping the basic orientation of propaganda policy as one of 
reinforcement means not only in the most general sense directing ft 
to support of the sentiments and definitions of the situation which 
connect Americans with the continuity of their institutional and 
cultural heritage. It must take account of certain particular features 
of that heritage which are essential to its connection with the kind 
of social control mechanisms which have previously been discussed. 

The findings of sociology and anthropology with respect to the 
importance of cultural relativit)' are such that any proposition with 
respect to the more universal significance of the institutionalized 
patterns of any particular social system should be put forward with 
great caution. Yet it is highly probable that the findings of modern 
psychology with respect to what constitutes psychological "maturity" 
will not come to be completely relativized as applicable only to this 
society. This is particularly true of what psychoanalysts have called 
the "reality principle," a maximization of which is a principal cri- 
terion of strong "ego development," and what may be called 
"affective reciprocity," the ability affectively to take account of the 

i** Perhaps two principal objections will be raised to a deliberate propaganda 
policy of the "reinforcement" type directed toward the home front. One is that 
such a policy would tend to freeze the status quo and perpetuate the evils of tlie 
existing social order. One's attitude on this question will depend on the degree 
of radicalism with which he interprets those evils. If it is sufficiently great, if 
society is to him fundamentally corrupt, the only acceptable propaganda policy 
will be a frankly revolutionary one. But general support of a reinforcement pro- 
gram does not commit one to freezing the stats quo. On the contrary, by con- 
trast with the fascist alternative, all the main potentialities of reform in society, 
of a more "democratic" way of life, are bound up with the maintenance of a basic 
continuity with tlie fundamentals of Western institutional and cultural tradition. 

The other objection is that propaganda, "fooling" and "working on" people 
is incompatible with our basic values— the public must be taken fully into gov- 
ernment's confidence and treated as responsible adults. This view is largely a 
compound of utopianism and rationalistic bias. In a certain sense by the same 
token medical practice should be abolished since it is incompatible with the 
human dignity of a sick person to submit to being helped by someone more com- 
petent than himself— or the teaching function should be completely de-institu- 
tionalized to permit students to "stand on their own feet." Realistically the 
alternatives are not "paternalism" versus complete independence of all persons, 
but a conscientious exercise of power in fiduciary terms in conformity with the 
basic patterns of the society or a]:)nse of power in some direction. Deliberate 
"propaganda" is only an extension of the general use of the power of government. 
It is not whether it should be used but hoio which is the problem for serious dis- 
cussion. Unconscious propaganda influence on a considerable scale is in any 
case inevitable. 


feelings of others and not to define situations in a grossly "one-sided" 
manner. Certainly the high incidence of science and rational tech- 
niques in a society tend to indicate a peculiarly high development 
of the "reality principle" in one direction. Hence its predominance 
may be said to transcend the element common to all social struc- 
tures, realistic adaptation to the existing institutionalized structure, 
whatever it may be. But the elements of universalism and function- 
al specificity found in all of the cases previously analyzed are all 
cases of a specifically high degree of institutionalization of pattern 
elements which play a fundamental role in encouraging reactions 
of emotional maturity. 

Whatever there may be of any more generalized significance in 
the institutionalization of these patterns, there can be no doubt that 
reinforcement of them is fundamental to the cultivation of matur- 
ity in our society— psychotherapy which consisted in "conversion" 
of the person to drastically otherworldly cults would, however 
much it solved his practical problems, be something drastically 
different from that of modern medicine. It is, conversely, clear that 
the psychology of most movements which tend to a drastic break 
with this same institutional heritage, especially perhaps those of the 
fascist type, is one which exploits precisely the opposite elements 
of character structure, those most closely bound up with "neurotic" 
types of reaction pattern, ideological distortion and affective over- 

It is the principal thesis of this paper that the structure of West- 
ern society in its relation to the functions of social control provides 
an extraordinary opening for the deliberate propaganda of rein- 
forcement as an agency of control. Just as deliberate psychotherapy 
in the medical relationship is in a sense simply an extension of 
functional elements inherent in the structure of the role of physi- 
cian, so, on the social level, the propaganda of reinforcement would 
be simply an extension of many of the automatic but latent func- 
tions of existing institutional patterns. 

Indeed, as a result of the above analysis it can safely be said tliat 
consideration of the role of the propaganda agency as analogous to 
that of the psychotherapist is more than a mere analogy. Social 
control in the sense of this discussion is after all in the last analysis 
a process of influencing, through psychological mechanisms, first 
the behavior, more deeply, through the process of socialization 
especially, the character structure of humans. In its non-deliberate 
functional significance the institution of medical practice is an inte- 


gral part of a far more generalized institutional structure and sys- 
tem of social control. The fundamental orientations inherent in its 
patterning, especially the role of the reality principle and psycho- 
logical maturity form an aspect, an "application" in one context, of 
configurational principles common to the institutional structure as 
a whole. With proper precautions for taking account of the differ- 
ence of level, to treat propaganda policy as a kind of "social psy- 
chotherapy" is to act directly in accordance with the essential 
nature of this social system. 

The first maxim is that, quite apart from what it deliberately does 
in dealing with particular tendencies to deviance which arise, the 
agency or agencies should assume a role as closely analogous to 
that of physician as is possible in the circumstances. Specifically it 
should so far as possible identify itself witli those elements of the 
institutional patterning of government and other structures in the 
society which are symbolic of the integration of the society as a 
whole. In relation to government this means above all that it should 
avoid involvement in any of the internal struggles for power of 
partisan groups; both in its constitution and publicly conspicuous 
personnel it should be as close as possible to the ideal of an impar- 
tial judiciary. 

It should also take advantage of other formally institutionalized 
elements in the society which fit into the same general type of pat- 
tern, perhaps especially the academic and the religious, although 
on account of the element of ambivalence in public attitudes to 
academic persons and institutions here great caution is called for— 
it would be unfortunate to allow a symbol like that of the early 
New Deal "brain trust" to become current. 

Also more informally it is essential to establish a position of im- 
personal authority. This, in the medical case, involves primarily two 
elements, technical competence and moral integrity in relation to 
the fundamental goals of medical practice. Since there is as yet in 
society no professional group which has come to be defined to the 
public in general as possessing technical competence in "social psy- 
chiatry"— perhaps someday some of the social sciences will achieve 
this— the next best seems to be the deliberate cultivation of a repu- 
tation for scrupulously truthful reporting of information, the sources 
of which the public cannot have direct access to. Information is of 
great intrinsic importance in itself. But what is involved here is its 
indirect importance, as establishing the authority of the propaganda 
agency, and a disposition to turn to it for "help" in matters where a 


person is necessarily incompetent. Exercising judgment as to 
whether or not information needs to be withheld for mihtary rea- 
sons is by no means incompatible with effective use of this pos- 

The analogy to the moral integrity of the physician is somewhat 
more complex. It is true the physician avoids expressing moral judg- 
ments of much of his patient's conduct and this is one primary 
source of his ability to "get at" his patient. But he does not assume 
a morally nihilistic attitude. Above all in relation to the definition 
of his own role certain moral fundamentals are taken for granted, 
especially his obligation to do his best for the patient and converse- 
ly the patient's obligation to give him full "cooperation," including 
complete truthfulness in relevant subjects. More broadly this pat- 
tern implicity assumes agreement on certain moral fundamentals 
of our institutionalized patterns, especially those involved in the 
acceptance of "mature adjustment" as a goal of therapy. Similarly 
a propaganda agency can quite self-consciously take for granted 
what are in the first instance moral fundamentals about its own 
role, its fiduciary position on behalf of the national welfare and its 
moral integrity in fulfilling its obligations. Implicitly this would 
carry with it acceptance of the fundamental orientation of national 
policy toward the war, above all, and acceptance of the principal 
fundamentals of the historic institutionalized values and cultural 

It can probably be said with confidence that it is generally best 
not to "argue" these things explicitly, but rather to take them for 
granted. This is not, however, to evade the moral questions in- 
volved. Rather, when occasion arises, it is quite legitimate to react 
strongly in the assertion of the relevant values. Generally speaking 
a good physician does not permit a patient to "get away" with a 
challenge to his moral integrity. He has no hesitation in reacting 

A few words may be said about the technique of handling par- 
ticular problems once the requisite generalized role has been estab- 
lished. Above all such an agency would not be an organ of "in- 
struction" of the public in the ordinary rationalistic sense. Its func- 
tion especially would not be to "refute" undesirable opinions and 
definitions of the situation. Its main function would rather be to 
keep the central definitions of the situations and symbols continual- 
ly, but not too obtrusively, before the public. Just how it should be 
worked out in detail is a very complicated and technical subject. 


Whether and in what circumstances and ways it should emulate 
the deliberate psychotherapist by, at strategic moments, offering 
"interpretations" of "pathological" behavior, is a most interesting 
question, but surely not one to be settled without much analysis 
and experience. 

Finally, it should be clear that one main index of whether or not 
such an agency were effectively performing its functions would be 
that it would become the object of "transferences," of the projection 
of affects which were not appropriate to what it had actually done, 
both positive and negative. This should provide positive opportuni- 
ties for extending its usefulness. 

The intention of this last discussion has not been to work out a 
blueprint of a propaganda agency, or to deliver or imply any judg- 
ment on the adequacy of existing agencies of our government. ^'^ It 
has been possible only to draw certain broad implications from the 
very general analysis of the problem which has occupied the main 
part of the paper. In relation to practical policy, the most it can do 
is to point a general direction. 

As in all such cases, getting closer to detailed practical policy 
would involve further analysis of the particular problems that have 
to be faced. A psychiatrist does not deal with neuroses in general, 
but with a particular patient with particular problems. It is pro- 
posed in a subsequent article to analyze certain salient features of 
the contemporary American social system in so far as they bear 
upon the problem of possible deliberate control by propaganda 
methods. This will raise the questions of what are the principal 
deviant tendencies in this situation, how are they rooted in the 
conflicts, strains, and malfunctioning of the social system, and in 
what ways and how far are they accessible to control by this kind 
of technique. 

1'^ It should be clear that, consciously or unconsciously, a good many of these 
functions have in fact been to a considerable extent performed by government 
agencies, most conspicuously by the presidency. Surely one of the main bases for 
referring to Mr. Roosevelt as an exceptionally good "politician" has been his 
ability to assume this type of role. Above all he must be conscious of often having 
been the object of "negative transference" and it would seem, has on the whole 
acted in the proper way to deal with such phenomena. An analysis of his public 
reactions to the various waves of public opinion toward the war from the fall 
of France to Pearl Harbor would be extremely illuminating. One of the most 
interesting phases is tliat of the timing as well as the content of major 
speeches, which are, in a sense, analogous to the interpretations of a psycho- 
analyst. Perhaps one of the most important things for a very high executive 
to learn is not to speak publicly too much, too often, or at the wrong times. 


The Kinship System of the 
Contemporary United States 

ms A REMAEKABLE fact that, in spite of the important interrelations 
between sociology and social anthropology, no attempt to describe 
and analyze the kinship system of the United States in the struc- 
tural terms current in the literature of anthropological field studies 
exists. This is probably mainly accounted for by two facts; on the 
sociological side, family studies have overwhelmingly been oriented 
to problems of individual adjustment rather than comparative struc- 
tural perspective; while from the anthropological side, a barrier 
has grown out of the fact that a major structural aspect of a large- 
scale society cannot be observed in a single program of field re- 
search. To a considerable extent the material must come from the 
kind of common sense and general experience which have been 
widely held to be of dubious scientific standing. 

There are two particularly cogent reasons why an attempt to fill 
this gap is highly desirable. In the first place, an understanding 
of the kinship system on precisely this structural level is of the 
greatest importance to the understanding of the American family, 
its place in the more general social structure, and the strains and 
psychological patterning to which it is subject.^ Secondly, our kin- 
ship system is of a structural type which is of extraordinary interest 

1 Probably the most significant contribution to this field thus far has been 
made by Kingsley Davis in a series of articles starting with his "Structural 
Analysis of Kinship" (America Anthropologist, April, 1937), in collaboration 
with W. Lloyd Warner, and going on to "Jealousy and Sexual Property" ( Social 
Forces, March, 1936 ), "The Sociology of Prostitution" ( American Sociological Re- 
view, October, 1937), "The Child and the Social Structure" (Journal of Educa- 
tional Sociology, December, 1940), "The Sociology of Parent- Youth Conflict" 
{American Sociological Review, August, 1940.) 

I am greatly indebted to Dr. Davis's work, starting with the significance of 
his first article, for the systematic relating of the biological and the social 
levels of kinship structure. Much of the present analysis is implicit in his later 
articles, which have pro\'ed to be very suggestive in working out the somewhat 
more explicit formulations of the present study. 


in relation to the broader problems of typology and systematic 
functional d\namics of kinship generally. As a type which, to the 
writer's knowledge, is not closely approached in any known non- 
literate society, its incorporation in the range dealt with by students 
of kinship should significantly enrich their comparative perspective.^ 

It can perhaps be regarded as established that, with proper pre- 
cautions, analysis of kinship terminology can serve as a highly 
useful approach to the study of the functioning social structure. 
In the case of the English language two precautions in particular, 
over and above those commonly observed, need to be explicitly 
mentioned. Such analysis alone cannot serve to bring out what is 
distinctively American because the terminology has been essentially 
stable since before the settlement of America, and today there is no 
significant terminological difference between England and the 
United States. Moreover, the differences in this respect between 
English and the other modern European languages are minor. Hence 
all analysis of terminology can do is indicate a very broad type 
within which the more distinctively American system falls. 

As shown in the accompanying diagram^ the American family is 
perhaps best characterized as an "open, multilineal, conjugal 

The conjugal family unit of parents and children is one of basic 
significance in any kinship system. What is distinctive about our 
system is the absence of any important terminologically recognized 

~ It is proposed in a later article to enter into certain of these comparative 
problems of kinship structure in an attempt to arrive at a higher level of dynamic 
generahzation about kinship than has yet come to be current in the sociological 
or even the anthropological literature. 

■^ The diagramming conventions adopted in this paper [see note in second 
paragraph, above] are somewhat different from those commonly used by anthro- 
pologists. They are imposed by the peculiar structural features of our system, 

a) Its "openness," i.e., absence of preferential mating. Hence the two 
spouses of any given conjugal family are not structurally related by 
family of orientation and it is not possible to portray "the" system in 
terms of a limited number of lines of descent. Each marriage links 
ego's kinship system to a complete system. 

b) The consequent indefinite "dispersion" of the lines of descent. 

The best that can be done in two dimensions is to take ego as a point of 
reference and show his significant kin. It is strictly impossible to diagram the 
system as a whole— that would require a space of n-dimensions. Similarly, 
"vertical" and "horizontal" or "lateral" "axes' have only a very limited mean- 
ing. "Lines of descent" and "generations" are significant. But there is a geo- 
metrically progressive increase in the number of lines of descent with each 
f feneration away from ego and the distinctions cannot be made in terms of a 
inear continuum. I am indebted to Miss Ai-li Sung of Radcliffe College for 
assistance in drafting the diagram. 



Figure 1 
The American Kinship System 


»• Descent 

Sibling Relationship 

Q r — "] Conjugal Families 

_.— ._^ Name Line 

— --— Family of Procreation 

with distinct 

ego's spouse 

Types of Families: 

1. Ego's family of orientation (1 only) 

2. Ego's family of procreation (1 only) 

3. First-degree ascendant families (2) 
{continued on foot of page ISO) 


units which cut across conjugal famihes, including some members 
and excluding others. The only instances of such units are pairs 
of conjugal families each with one common number. Terminologi- 
cally, in common speech, it is significant that we have only the 
words "family," which generally* refers to the conjugal unit, and 
"relatives," which does not refer to any solidarity unit at all, but 
only to anyone who is a kinsman. 

Ours then is a "conjugal"-'' system in that it is made up exclusively 
of interlocking conjugal families. The principle of structural rela- 
tion of these families is founded on the fact that, as a consequence 
of the incest tabu, ego is always in the structurally normaF' case 
a member not of one but of two conjugal families, those which 
Warner usefully distinguishes as the "family of orientation," into 
which he is born as a child, and the "family of procreation," which 
is founded by his marriage. Moreover, he is the only"^ common 
member of the two families. 

From ego's point of view, then, the core, of the kinship system 
is constituted by families 1 and 2 in the diagram, in the one case 
his father, mother, brothers and sisters, in the other his spouse 

•* The most important exception is its usage in upper class circles to denote 
what Warner calls a "lineage," i.e., a group possessing continuity over several 
generations, usually follovdng the "name line," e.g., the "Adams family." See 
W. L. Warner and Lunt, Social Life of a Modern Community. The significance 
of tliis exception will be commented upon below. 

5 See Ralph Linton, The Study of Man, Ch. VIII, for the very useful dis- 
tinction between "conjugal" and "consanguine" kinship types. 

*» Excluding, af course, those who do not marry. But failure to marry has no 
positive structural consequences in relation to kinship— only negative. 

"> It is of course possible for two pairs— or even more— of siblings to 
intermarry. This case is, however, without structural significance. 

4. First-degree collateral families (number indefinite, 2 types) 

5. First-degree descendant families (number indefinite, 2 types) 

6. In-law family (1 only) 

7. Second-degree ascendant and descendant families (4 ascendant, descendant 
indefinite, 4 types) 

8. Second-degree collateral families (all children ego's cousins) 

Structural Groupings of Families: 

I. 1 -f 2 — Inner circle 
II. 3, 4, 5 -f 6 — Outer circle 

III. 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 — Families in line of descent 

IV. 4, 8 — Collateral families 

V. 2, 6 — Articulation of consanguine systems 

No difl^erence according to sex of ego, except in the term for spouse and 
the fact that, if ego is female, name line does not extend below ego in line 
of descent. 


(wife or husband according to eiS.o's sex), sons and daughters. Mon- 
ogamy is reflected in the fact that parent and other parent's spouse 
are terminologically identical, modified only by the prefix "step" 
to take account of second or later marriages, and in the fact that 
the terms "father" and "mother," "husband" and "wife" can each 
apply to only one person at a time. It is also notable that no dis- 
tinction on the basis of birth order is made— all brothers are termi- 
nologically alike. But most notable of all is the fact that none of 
these seven kinship personalities is terminologically identified with 
any relative outside the particular conjugal family in which he is 
placed. A brother is specifically distinguished from any male 
cousin, the father from any uncle, the mother from any aunt, etc. 
These two conjugal families may conveniently be treated as con- 
stituting the 'inner circle" of the kinship structure. Relative prior- 
ities within them will be discussed below. 

Now each member of ego's inner kinship circle is the connecting 
link with one other terminologically recognized conjugal family. 
Moreover he links the family of orientation or procreation, as the 
case may be, with onhj one farther conjugal family, and each indi- 
vidual with a separate one. The kinship personalities of this "outer 
circle" are not, however, always terminologically separate, a fact 
which will be shown to be of paramount importance. 

The first pair of outer circle families, which may be called the 
"first ascendant," are the families of orientation of ego's parents. 
Besides the articulating personality, each consists of the four 
kinship personalities of grandfather, grandmother, uncle, and aunt. 
The most significant fact is the lack of terminological distinction 
between the paternal and the maternal families of orientation- 
grandparents, uncles and aunts are alike regardless of which "side" 
they are on. The only important exception to this lies, not in kin- 
ship terminology as such but in the patrilineal inheritance of the 
family name, giving rise to a unilateral "name line" (9). Since the 
same principle of lack of distinction by sex of intervening relative 
applies to still higher ascendant generations— the four great-and 
eight great-great-grandfathers— it is perhaps more accurate to speak 
of a "multilinear' than a "bilateral" system. Anyone of an indefinite 
number of lines of descent may be treated as significant. Above all, 
the extension from the principle of foilaterality, as applied to the 
first ascendant (and descendant) families, to that of mw/^ilineality 
in succeeding generations is completely incompatible with any tend- 
ency to bifurcate the kin group on the basis of lines of descent. 


The same fundamental principles govern the terminology of the 
first collateral families (4), the families of procreation of ego's 
siblings; and the first descendant families (5), the families of pro- 
creation of his children. It is noteworthy that siblings' spouses are 
terminologically assimilated to sibling status with the suffix "in- 
law"— generally not used in address or the more intimate occasions 
of reference— and that nephews and nieces are the same whether 
they are brothers' or sisters' children and regardless of the sex of 
ego. Similarly spouses of children are assimilated to the status of 
children by the same terminological device and sons' and daughters' 
children are all indiscriminately grandchildren. Finally, both sib- 
lings-in-law and children-in-law are terminologically segregated 
from any kinship status relative to ego except that in the particular 
conjugal family which is under consideration. 

The last outer circle family, the "in-law" family (6), has a very 
particular significance. It is the only one of those to which ego's 
inner circle is linked to which he is not bound by descent and con- 
sanguinity but only by affinity, and this fact is a paramount 
importance, signalizing as it does the openness of our system. 
Preferential mating on a kinship basis, that is, is completely without 
structural significance, and every marriage in founding a new con- 
jugal family brings together (in the type case) two completely un- 
related kinship groups which are articulated on a kinship basis 
only in this one particular marriage. Seen from a somewhat more 
generalized point of view, if we take the total inner and outer 
circle group of ego's kin as a "system," it is articulated to another 
entirely distinct system of the same structure by every peripheral 
relative (i.e., who is not a connecting link between the inner and 
outer circles), except in tlie direct lines of descent. The conse- 
quence is a maximum of dispersion of the lines of descent and the 
prevention of the structuring of kinship groups on any other prin- 
ciple than the "onion" principle, which implies proportionately in- 
creasing "distantness" with each "circle" of linked conjugal families.* 

Another way of throwing the significance of this basic open-multi- 
lineal structure into relief is to recall the fact that ego's family of 
orientation and his in-law family are, from the point of view of his 

** In any finite population, lines of descent are bound to cross somewhere, 
and in our society the marriage of fairly close relatives is not infrequent. But 
there is no consistent pattern in this intermarriage, and it is hence without 
structural consequences. 

Most of the essentials of an open conjugal system can be maintained, 
while a high level of generation continuity in at least one line is also main- 


children, both first ascendant families whose members are equally 
grandparents, aunts and uncles. 

In principle it is possible to distinguish, beyond the outer circle, 
further layers of the "onion" indefinitely. It is, however, significant 
that our kinship terminology ceases at this point to apply at all 
specific terms, fundamentally recognizing only two elements. First 
is the line of descent (8) designated by the ascendant and descend- 
ant family terms with the addition of the reduplicating prefix "great 
—e.g., great-grandfather and great-grandson. Second is the indis- 
criminate category "cousins" into which all "collaterals" are thrown, 
with only the descriptive^ devices of "first," "third," "once removed," 
etc., to distinguish them by. 

How far can this distinctive terminology be said to "reflect" the 
actual institutional structure of kinship? In a broad way it certainly 
does. We clearly have none of the "extended" kin groupings so 
prevalent among non-literate peoples, such as patrilineal or matri- 
lineal clans. We have no exogamy except that based on "degree" of 
relationship. We have no preferential mating— all these are a matter 
of the simplest common knowledge. But to get a clearer conception 
of the more specific structure it is essential to turn to a different 
order of evidence. 

In the first place, the importance of the isolated conjugal family 
is brought out by the fact that it is the normal "household" unit. 
This means it is the unit of residence and the unit whose members 
as a matter of course pool a common basis of economic support, 
especially with us, money income. Moreover, in the typical case 
neither the household arrangements nor the source of income bear 
any specific relation to the family of orientation of either spouse, 
or, if there is any, it is about as likely to be to the one as to the 
other. But the typical conjugal family lives in a home segregated 
from those of both pairs of parents (if living) and is economically 

tained, by a systematic discrimination between lines of descent— especially 
through primogeniture. The extent to which this has and has not occurred is 
the most important range of variation within the basic pattern and will have 
to be discussed in some detail below. 

^ It should perhaps be explicitly stated that though sometimes called a 
"descriptive" system by some or the older anthropologists, our terminology is by 
no means literally descriptive of exact biological relationships. Above all it fails 
to distinguish relatives whose relation to ego is traced through diflFerent hues of 
descent. But it also fails to distinguish by birth order, or to distinguish siblings' 
spouses from spouses' siblings— both are brothers- or sisters-in-law. Finally, 
as just noted, it stops making distinctions very soon, treating all collaterals as 


independent of both. In a very large proportion of cases the geo- 
graphical separation is considerable. Furthermore, the primary 
basis of economic support and of many other elements of social 
status lies t>qoically in the husband's occupational status, his "job," 
which he typically holds independently of any particularistic rela- 
tion to kinsmen. 

The isolation of the conjugal unit in this country is in strong con- 
trast to much of the historic structure of European society where a 
much larger and more important element have inherited home, 
source of economic support, and specific occupational status (espe- 
cially a farm or family enterprise) from their fathers. This of course 
has had to involve discrimination between siblings since the whole 
complex of property and status had to be inherited intact.^** 

Hence considerable significance attaches to our patterns of in- 
heritance of property. Here the important thing is the absence of 
any specific favoring of any particular line of descent. Formally, 
subject to protection of the interests of widows, complete testa- 
mentary freedom exists. The American law of intestacy, however, 
in specific contrast to the older English Common Law tradition, 
gives all children, regardless of birth order or sex, equal shares. 
But even more important, the actual practice of wills overwhelm- 
ingly conforms to this pattern. Where deviations exist they are not 
bound up with the kinship structure as such but are determined by 
particular relationships or situations of need. There is also notice- 
able in our society a relative weakness of pressure to leave all or 
even most property to kin.^^ 

It is probably safe to assume that an essentially open system, with 
a primary stress on the conjugal family and corresponding absence 
of groupings of collaterals cutting across conjugal families, has ex- 
isted in Western society since the period when the kinship termin- 
ology of the European languages took shape. The above evidence, 
however, is sufficient to show that within this broad type the Ameri- 
can system has, by contrast with its European forbears, developed 
far in the direction of a symfnetricaUy multilineal type. This rela- 
tive absence of any structural bias in favor of solidarity with the 
ascendant and descendant families in any one line of descent has 

1*^ Though perhaps the commonest pattern, primogeniture has by no means 
been universal. Cf. Arensberg and Kimball, Family and Society in Ireland, and 
G. C. Homans, English Villagers of the I3th Century. 

^1 Indeed a wealthy man who completely neglected philanthropies in his 
will would be criticized. 


enormously increased the structural isolation of the individual 
conjugal family. This isolation, the almost symmetrical "onion" 
structure, is the most distinctive feature of the American kinship 
system and underlies most of its peculiar functional and dynamic 

Before entering into a few of these, it should be made clear that 
the incidence of the fully developed type in the American social 
structure is uneven and important tendencies to deviation from it 
are found in certain structural areas. In the first place, in spite of 
the extent to which American agriculture has become "commercial- 
ized," the economic and social conditions of rural life place more 
of a premium on continuity of occupation and status from genera- 
tion to generation than do urban conditions, and hence, especially 
perhaps among the more solidly established rural population, some- 
thing approaching Le Play's famille souche is not unusual. 

Secondly, there are important upper class elements in this country 
for which elite status is closely bound up with the status of ancestry, 
hence the continuity of kinship solidarity in a— mainly patrilineal— 
line of descent, in "lineages. "^^ Therefore in these "family elite" 
elements the symmetry of the multilineal kinship structure is sharply 
skewed in the direction of a patrilineal system with a tendency 
to primogeniture— one in many respects resembling that histori- 
cally prevalent among European aristocracies, though considerably 
looser. There is a tendency for this in turn to be bound up with 
family property, especially an ancestral home, and continuity of 
status in a particular local community. 

Finally, third, there is evidence that in lower class situations, in 
diflFerent ways both rural and urban, there is another type of devi- 
ance from this main kinship pattern. This type is connected with 
a strong tendency to instability of marriage and a "mother-centered" 
type of family structure— found both in Negro and white population 
elements.^^ It would not disturb the multilineal symmetry of the 

1- Cf. Warner and Lunt, op. cit., and A Davis and Gardner, Deep South: 
1-^ Cf. Davis and Gardner, op. cit., Ch. VI, E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro 
Family in the United States, and Lynd, Middletown in Transition. Mrs. Florence 
Kluckhohn of Wellesley College has called my attention to a fourth deviant 
type which she calls the "suburban matriarchy." In certain suburban areas, 
especially with upper-middle class population, the husband and father is out 
of the home a very large proportion of the time. He tends to leave by far the 
greater part of responsibility for children to his wife and also either not to par- 
ticipate in the afiFairs of the local community at all or only at the instance of 
his wife. This would apply to informal social relationships where both enter- 
taining and acceptances of invitations are primarily arranged by the wife or on 
her initiative. 


system but would favor a very different type of conjugal family, 
even if it tended to be as nearly isolated as tlie main type from 
other kinship groups. This situation has not, however, been at all 
adequately studied from a functional point of view. 

Thus what is here treated as the focal American type of kinship 
structure is most conspicuously developed in the urban middle 
class areas of the society. This fact is strong evidence of the inter- 
dependence of kinship structure with other structural aspects of 
the same society, some of which will be briefly discussed below. 

In approaching the functional analysis of the central American 
kinship type, the focal point of departure must lie in the crucial 
fact that ego is a member not of one but of two conjugal families. 
This fact is of course of central significance in all kinship systems, 
but in our own it acquires a special importance because of the struc- 
tural prominence of the conjugal family and its peculiar isolation. 
In most kinship systems many persons retain throughout the life 
cycle a fundamentally stable— though changing— status in one or 
more extended kinship units.^^ In our system this is not the case 
for anyone. 

The most immediate consequences he in the structural signifi- 
cance of the marriage relationship, especially in relation to the lines 
of descent and to the sibling tie. Ego, by marriage, that is, is by 
comparison with other kinship systems drastically segregated from 
his family of orientation, both from his parents— and their forbears 
—and from his siblings. His first kinship loyalty is unequivocally 
to his spouse and then to their children if and when any are born. 
Moreover, his family of procreation, by virtue of a common house- 
hold, income, and community status, becomes a solidarity unit in 
the sense in which the segregation of the interests of individuals 
is relatively meaningless, whereas the segregation of these interests 
of ego from those of the family of orientation tends relatively to 
minimize solidarity with the latter. 

The strong emphasis for ego as an adult on the marriage rela- 
tionship at the expense of those to parents and siblings is directly 
correlative with the symmetrical multilineality of the system. From 
the point of view of the marriage pair, that is, neither family of 
orientation, particularly neither parental couple, has structurally 
sanctioned priority of status. It is thus in a sense a balance of 

1"* This is conspicuously true, for example, in a unilateral clan system, of 
the members of the sex group on which tiie continuity of tlie clan rests. The 
situation of the other, the "out-marrying," sex, is, on the other hand, quite 


power situation in which independence of the family of procreation 
is favored by the necessity of maintaining impartiahty as between 
the two famihes of orientation.'^ 

From this it seems legitimate to conclude that in a peculiar sense 
which is not equally applicable to other systems the marriage bond 
is, in our society, the main structural keystone of the kinship sys- 
tem. This results from the structural isolation of the conjugal 
family and the fact that the married couple are not supported by 
comparably strong kinship ties to other adults. Closely related to 
this situation is that of choice of marriage partner. It is not only 
an open system in that there is no preferential mating on a kinship 
basis, but since the new marriage is not typically "incorporated" 
into an already existing kinship unit, the primary structural reasons 
for an important influence on marriage choice being exerted by 
the kin of the prospective partners are missing or at least minimized. 

It is true that something approaching a system of "arranged" 
marriages does persist in some situations, especially where couples 
brought up in the same local community marry and expect to settle 
down there— or where there are other particularistic elements pres- 
ent as in cases of "marrying the boss's daughter." Our open system, 
however, tends very strongly to a pattern of purely personal choice 
of marriage partner without important parental influence. With 
increasing social mobility, residential, occupational and other, it 
has clearly become the dominant pattern. Though not positively 
required by the kinship structure, freedom of choice is not im- 
peded by it, and the structure is probably, in various ways, con- 
nected with the motivation of this freedom, an important aspect of 
the "romantic love" complex. 

A closely related functional problem touches the character of the 
marriage relationship itself. Social systems in which a considerable 
number of individuals are in a complex and delicate state of mutual 
interdependence tend greatly to limit the scope of "personal" emo- 
tional feeling or, at least, its direct expression in action. Any con- 
siderable range of affective spontaneity would tend to impinge on 

^^ See Simmel's well-known essay on the significance of number in social 
relationships. ( Soziologie, Ch. II ) . This is an illuminating case of the triadic" 
group. It is not, however, institutionally that of tertius gaudens since that im- 
plies one "playing off the other two against each other," though informally it 
may sometimes approach that. Institutionally, however, what is most unportant 
is the requirement of impartiality between the two families of orientation. 
Essentially the same considerations apply as between an older couple and two 
or more of their married children's families of procreation— impartiality ir- 
respective of sex or birth order is expected. 


the statuses and interests of too many others, with disequihbrating 
consequences for the system as a whole. This need to hmit affec- 
tive spontaneity is fundamentally why arranged marriages tend to 
be found in kinship systems where the newly married couple is 
incorporated into a larger kin group, but it also strongly colors the 
character of the marriage relationship itself, tending to place the 
primary institutional sanctions upon matters of objective status and 
obligations to other kin, not on subjective sentiment. ^^ Thus the 
structural isolation of the conjugal family tends to free the affec- 
tive inclinations of the couple from a whole series of hampering 

These restrictive forces, which in other kinship systems inhibit 
affective expression, have, however, positive functional significance 
in maintaining tlie solidarity of the effective kinship unit. Very 
definite expectations in the definition of role, combined with a 
complex system of interrelated sanctions, both positive and nega- 
tive, go far to guarantee stability and the maintenance of standards 
of performance. In the American kinship system this kind of in- 
stitutionalized support of the role of marriage partner through its 
interlocking with other kinship roles is, if not entirely lacking, at 
least very much weaker. A functionally equivalent substitute in 
motivation to conformity with the expectations of the role is clearly 
needed. It may hence be suggested that the institutional sanction 
placed on the proper subjective sentiments of spouses, in short the 
expectation that they have an obligation to be "in love," has this 
significance. This in turn is related to personal choice of marriage 
partner, since affective devotion is, particularly in our culture, 
linked to a presumption of the absence of any element of coercion. 
This would seem to be a second important basis of the prominence 
of the "romantic complex," 

Much evidence has accumulated to show that conformity with 
the expectations of socially structured roles is not to be taken as a 
matter of course, but that often there are typically structured sources 
of psychological strain which underlie socially structured mani- 

1" This tendency for miiltiple-mcmbcred social systems to repress spon- 
taneous manifestations of sentiment should not be taken too absolutely. In such 
phenomena as cliques, there is room for the following of personal inclinations 
within the framework of institutionalized statuses. It is, however, probable that 
it is more restrictive in groups where, as in kinship, the institutionalized rela- 
tionships are iiarticularistic and functionally diffuse than in universalistic and 
functionally specific systems such as modern occupational organizations. In the 
latter case personal affective relationships can, within considerable limits, be 
institutionally ignored as belonging to the sphere of "private affairs." 


festations of the kind which Kardiner has called "secondary insti- 

Much psychological research has suggested the very great im- 
portance to the individual of his affective ties, established in early 
childhood, to other members of his family of orientation. When 
strong affective ties have been formed, it seems reasonable to 
believe that situational pressures which force their drastic modi- 
fication will impose important strains upon the individual. 

Since all known kinship systems impose an incest tabu, the transi- 
tion from asexual intrafamilial relationships to the sexual relation 
of marriage— generally to a previously relatively unknown person 
—is general. But with us this transition is accompanied by a process 
of "emancipation" from the ties both to parents and to siblings, 
which is considerably more drastic than in most kinship systems, 
especially in that it applies to both sexes about equally, and in- 
cludes emancipation from solidarity with all members of the family 
of orientation about equally, so that there is relatively little con- 
tinuity with any kinship ties established by birth for anyone. 

The effect of these factors is reinforced by two others. Since the 
effective kinship unit is normally the small conjugal family, the 
child's emotional attachments to kin are confined to relatively few 
persons instead of being distributed more widely. Especially im- 
portant, perhaps, is the fact that no other adult woman has a role 
remotely similar to that of the mother. Hence the average intensity 
of affective involvement in family relations is likely to be high. 
Secondly, the child's relations outside the family are only to a 
small extent ascribed. Both in the play group and in the school he 
must to a large extent "find his own level" in competition with 
others. Hence the psychological significance of his security within 
the family is heightened. 

We have then a situation where at the same time the inevitable 
importance of family ties is intensified and a necessity to become 
emancipated from them is imposed. This situation would seem to 
have a good deal to do with the fact that with us adolescence— and 
beyond— is, as has been frequently noted, a "difiicult" period in 
the life cycle.^^ In particular, associated with this situation is the 
prominence in our society of what has been called a "youth cul- 
ture," a distinctive pattern of values and attitudes of the age groups 

1^ See Abraham Kardiner, The Individual and His Society. 
^^ Cf. the various writings of Margaret Mead, especially her Coming of Age 
in Samoa and Sex and Temperament. 


between childhood and the assumption of full adult responsibilities. 
This youth culture, with its irresponsibility, its pleasure-seeking, its 
"rating and dating," and its intensification of the romantic love 
pattern, is not a simple matter of "apprenticeship" in adult values 
and responsibilities. It bears many of the marks of reaction to 
emotional tension and insecurity, and in all probability has among 
its functions that of easing the difficult process of adjustment from 
childhood emotional dependency to full "maturity."^ ^ In it we 
find still a third element underlying the prominence of the romantic 
love complex in American society. 

The emphasis which has here been placed on the multilineal 
symmetry of our kinship structure might be taken to imply that 
our society was characterized by a correspondingly striking assimi- 
lation of the roles of the sexes to each other. It is true that Ameri- 
can society manifests a high level of the "emancipation" of women, 
which in important respects involves relative assimilation to mas- 
culine roles, in accessibility to occupational opportunity, in legal 
rights relative to property holding, and in various other respects. 
Undoubtedly the kinship system constitutes one of the important 
sets of factors underlying this emancipation since it does not, as 
do so many kinship systems, place a structural premium on the 
role of either sex in the maintenance of the continuity of kinship 

But the elements of sex-role assimilation in our society are con- 
spicuously combined with elements of segregation which in many 
respects are even more striking than in other societies, as for in- 
stance in the matter of the much greater attention given by women 
to st>'le and refinement of taste in dress and personal appearance. 
This and other aspects of segregation are connected with the struc- 
ture of kinship, but not so much by itself as in its interrelations 
with the occupational system. 

The members of the conjugal family in our urban society normally 
share a common basis of economic support in the form of money 
income, but this income is not derived from the co-operative efforts 
of the family as a unit— its principal source lies in the remuneration 
of occupational roles performed by individual members of the 
family. Status in an occupational role is generally, however, speci- 
fically segregated from kinship status— a person holds a "job" as an 
individual, not by virtue of his status in a family. 

1® Cf. N. J. Demerath, Schizophrenia and the Sociology of Adolescence. 

Dissertation, Harvard University, 1942, (unpub.) 


Among the occupational statuses of members of a family, if there 
is more than one, much the most important is that of the husband. 
and father, not only because it is usually the primary source of 
family income, but also because it is the most important single 
basis of the status of the family in the community at large. To be 
the main "breadwinner" of his family is a primary role of the normal 
adult man in our society. The corollary of this role is his far 
smaller participation than that of his wife in the internal afiFairs of 
the household. Consequently, "housekeeping" and the care of 
children is still the primary functional content of the adult feminine 
role in the "utilitarian" division of labor. Even if the married 
woman has a job, it is, at least in the middle classes, in the great 
majority of cases not one which in status or remuneration competes 
closely with those held by men of her own class. Hence there is a 
typically asymmetrical relation of the marriage pair to the occu- 
pational structure. 

This asymmetrical relation apparently both has exceedingly im- 
portant positive functional significance and is at the same time an 
important source of strain in relation to the patterning of sex roles.-^ 

On the positive functional side, a high incidence of certain types 
of patterns is essential to our occupational system and to the insti- 
tutional complex in such fields as property and exchange which 
more immediately surround this system. In relatively common- 
sense terms it requires scope for the valuation of personal achieve- 
ment, for equality of opportunity, for mobility in response to 
technical requirements, for devotion to occupational goals and 
interests relatively unhampered by "personal" considerations. In 
more technical terms it requires a high incidence of technical 
competence, of rationality, of universalistic norms, and of functional 
specificity.^^ All these are drastically different from the patterns 
which are dominant in the area of kinship relations, where ascrip- 
tion of status by birth plays a prominent part, and where roles are 
defined primarily in particularistic and functionally diffuse terms. 

It is quite clear that the type of occupational structure which 
is so essential to our society requires a far-reaching structural 
segregation of occupational roles from the kinship roles of the 

20 Cf. Talcott Parsons, "An Analytical Approach to the Theory of Social 
Stratification" ( American Journal of Sociology, May, 1940 ) ; and "Age and Sex 
in the Social Structure of the United States" {American Sociological Review, 
October, 1942). Both reprinted in this volume. 

21 For the meaning of these technical terms, see Talcott Parsons, "The Pro- 
fessions and Social Structure" {Social Forces, May 1939), reprinted in this vol- 


same individuals. They must, in the occupational system, be 
treated primarily as individuals. This is a situation drastically dif- 
ferent from that found in practically all non-literate societies and 
in many that are literate. 

At the same time, it cannot be doubted that a solidary kinship 
unit has functional significance of the highest order, especially in 
relation to the socialization of individuals and to the deeper aspects 
of their psychological security. What would appear to have hap- 
pened is a process of mutual accommodation between these two 
fundamental aspects of our social structure. On the one hand our 
kinship system is of a structural type which, broadly speaking, 
interferes least with the functional needs of the occupational sys- 
tem, above all in that it exerts relatively little pressure for the 
ascription of an individual's social status— through class affiliation, 
property, and of course particular "jobs"— by virtue of his kinship 
status. The conjugal unit can be mobile in status independently 
of the other kinship ties of its members, that is, those of the spouses 
to tlie members of their families of orientation. 

But at the same time this small conjugal unit can be a strongly 
solidary unit. This is facilitated by the prevalence of the pattern 
that normally only one of its members has an occupational role 
which is of determinate significance for the status of the family 
as a whole. Minor children, that is, as a rule do not "work," and 
when they do, it is already a major step in the process of emanci- 
pation from the family of orientation. The wife and mother is 
either exclusively a "housewife" or at most has a "job" rather than 
a "career." 

There are perhaps two primary functional aspects of this situa- 
tion. In the first place, by confining the number of status-giving 
occupational roles of the members of the eflFective conjugal unit 
to one, it eliminates any competition for status, especially as be- 
tween husband and wife, which might be disruptive of the solidarity 
of marriage. So long as lines of achievement are segregated and 
not directly comparable, there is less opportunity for jealousy, a 
sense of inferiority, etc., to develop. Secondly, it aids in clarity of 
definition of the situation by making the status of the family in 
the community relatively definite and unequivocal. There is much 
evidence that this relative definiteness of status is an important 
factor in psychological security.^^ 

-- An example of disturbing indeterminacy of family status without occupa- 
tional competition between husband and wife is the case where inherited wealth 
and family connections of a wife involve the couple in a standard of living and 


The same structural arrangements which have this positive func- 
tional significance also give rise to important strains. What has 
been said above about the pressure for thoroughgoing emancipa- 
tion from the family of orientation is a case in point. But in con- 
nection with the sex-role problem there is another important source 
of strain. 

Historically, in Western culture, it may perhaps be fairly said 
that there has been a strong tendency to define the feminine role 
psychologically as one strongly marked by elements of dependency. 
One of the best symbols perhaps was the fact that until rather 
recently the married woman was not sui juris, could not hold 
property, make contracts, or sue in her own right. But in the mod- 
ern American kinship system, to say nothing of other aspects of 
the culture and social structure, there are at least two pressures 
which tend to counteract this dependency and have undoubtedly 
played a part in the movement for feminine emancipation. 

The first, already much discussed, is the multilineal symmetry 
of the kinship system which gives no basis of sex discrimination, 
and which in kinship terms favors equal rights and responsibilities 
for both parties to a marriage. The second is the character of the 
marriage relationship. Resting as it does primarily on affective 
attachment for the other person as a concrete human individual, 
a "personality," rather than on more objective considerations of 
status, it puts a premium on a certain kind of mutuality and equal- 
ity. There is no clearly structured superordination-subordination 
pattern. Each is a fully responsible "partner" with a claim to a 
voice in decisions, to a certain human dignity, to be "taken seriously." 
Surely the pattern of romantic love which makes his relation 
to the "woman he loves" the most important single thing in a man's 
life, is incompatible with the view that she is an inferior creature, 
fit only for dependency on him. 

In our society, however, occupational status has tremendous 
weight in the scale of prestige values. The fact that the normal 
married woman is debarred from testing or demonstrating her 
fundamental equality with her husband in competitive occupational 
achievement, creates a demand for a functional equivalent. At 
least in the middle classes, however, this cannot be found in the 
utilitarian functions of the role of housewife since these are treated 
as relatively menial functions. To be, for instance, an excellent 

social relations to which the husband's occupational status and income would 
not give access. Such a situation is usually uncomfortable for the husband, but 
also very likely for the wife. 


cook, does not give a hired maid a moral claim to a higher status 
than that of domestic servant. 

This situation helps perhaps to account for a conspicuous tend- 
ency for the feminine role to emphasize broadly humanistic rather 
than technically specialized achievement values. One of the key 
patterns is that of "good taste," in personal appearance, house 
furnishings, cultural things like literature and music. To a large 
and perhaps increasing extent the more humanistic cultural tradi- 
tions and amenities of life are carried on by women. Since these things 
are of high intrinsic importance in the scale of values of our cul- 
ture, and since by virtue of the system of occupational specializa- 
tion even many highly superior men are greatly handicapped in 
respect to them, there is some genuine redressing of the balance 
between the sexes. 

There is also, however, a good deal of direct evidence of tension 
in the feminine role. In the "glamor girl" pattern, use of specifically 
feminine devices as an instrument of compulsive search for power 
and exclusive attention are conspicuous. Many women succumb 
to their dependency cravings through such channels as neurotic 
illness or compulsive domesticity and thereby abdicate both their 
responsibilities and their opportunities for genuine independence. 
Many of the attempts to excel in approved channels of achieve- 
ment are marred by garishness of taste, by instability in response 
to fad and fashion, by a seriousness in community or club activities 
which is out of proportion to the intrinsic importance of the task. 
In all these and other fields there are conspicuous signs of inse- 
curity and ambivalence. Hence it may be concluded that the 
feminine role is a conspicuous focus of the strains inherent in our 
social structure, and not the least of the sources of these strains 
is to be found in the functional difiBculties in the integration of our 
kinship system with the rest of the social structure.^^ 

Finally, a word may be said about one further problem of Amer- 
ican society in which kinship plays a prominent part, the situation 
of the aged. In various ways our society is oriented to values par- 
ticularly appropriate to the younger age groups so that there is a 
tendency for older people to be "left out of it." The abruptness 
of "retirement" from occupational roles also contributes. But a 

23 There is no intention to imply that the adult masculine role in American 
society is devoid of comparably severe strains. They are not, however, prima 
facie so intimately connected with the structure of kinship as are those of the 
feminine role. 


primary present concern is one implication of the structural isola- 
tion of the conjugal family. The obverse of the emancipation, upon 
marriage and occupational independence, of children from their 
families of orientation is the depletion of that family until the 
older couple is finally left alone. This situation is in strong con- 
trast to kinship systems in which membership in a kinship unit is 
continuous throughout the life cycle. There, very frequently, it is 
the oldest members who are treated with the most respect and 
have the greatest responsibility and authority. But with us there 
is no one left to respect them, for them to take responsibility for or 
have authority over. 

For young people not to break away from their parental families 
at the proper time is a failure to live up to expectations, an unwar- 
ranted expression of dependency. But just as they have a duty to 
break away, they also have a right to independence. Hence for an 
older couple— or a widow or widower— to join the household of a 
married child is not, in the terms of the kinship structure, a "na- 
tural" arrangement. This is proved by the fact that it is seldom 
done at all except under pressure, either for economic support or 
to mitigate extreme loneliness and social isolation.^^ Even though 
in such situations it may be the best solution of a difficult problem 
it very frequently involves considerable strain, which is by no 
means confined to one side. The whole situation would be radically 
different in a different kind of kinship structure. It may be sur- 
mised that this situation, as well as "purely economic" questions, 
underlies much of the current agitation for old age pensions and 
the appeal of such apparently fantastic schemes as the Townsend 

In this brief paper there can be no pretense of anything approach- 
ing an exhaustive functional analysis of the American kinship sys- 
tem or of its structural interdependence with other aspects of our 
social structure. A few problems of this order have been presented, 
beyond a direct descriptive analysis of the kinship structure as 
such, to illustrate the importance of a clear and thorough grasp of 
this structure in the understanding of many problems of the func- 

24 These pressures are, of course, likely to be by far most acute in the case 
of widows and widowers, especially the former. They are also considerably the 
more numerous, and often there is no other at all tolerable solution than to live 
in the family of a married child. Being joined and cared for by an unmarried 
child, especially a daughter, is another way out for the aged which often involves 
acute tragedies for the younger person. 


tioning of American society, including its specific pathology. This, 
by and large, sociological students of the Amercian family have 
failed to provide or use systematically. It is as a contribution 
toward filling the gap in our working analytical equipment that 
the present paper has been conceived. 


The Theoretical Development of 
the Sociology of Religion 


THE PRESENT PAPER will attempt to present in broad outline what 
seems to the writer one of the most significant chapters in the re- 
cent history of sociological theory, that dealing with the broader 
structure of the conceptual scheme for the analysis of religious 
phenomena as part of a social system. Its principal significance 
would seem to lie on two levels. In the first place, the development 
to be outlined represents a notable advance in the adequacy of our 
tlieoretical equipment to deal with a critically important range of 
scientific problems. Secondly, however, it is at the same time a 
particularly good illustration of the kind of process by which major 
theoretical developments in the field of social theory can be ex- 
pected to take place. 

Every important tradition of scientific thought involves a broad 
framework of theoretical propositions at any given stage of its 
development. Generally speaking, differences will be found only 
in the degree to which this framework is logically integrated and 
to which it is explicitly and self-consciously acknowledged and 
analyzed. About the middle of the last century or shortly there- 
after, it is perhaps fair to say, generalized thinking about the sig- 
nificance of religion to human life tended to fall into one of two 
main categories. The first is the body of thought anchored in the 
doctrinal positions of one or another specific religious group, pre- 
dominantly of course the various Christian denominations. For 
understandable reasons, the main tenor of such thought tended to 
be normative rather than empirical and analytical, to assure its own 
religious position and to expose the errors of opponents. It is di£B- 
cult to see that in any direct sense important contributions to the 


sociology of religion as an empirical science could come from tliis 
source.^ The other main category may be broadly referred to as 
that of positivistic thinking. The great stream of thought which 
culminated in the various branches of utilitarianism, had, of course, 
long been much concerned with some of tlie problems of religion. 
In its concern with contemporary society, however, the strong 
tendency had been to minimize the importance of religion, to treat 
it as a matter of "superstition" which had no place in the enlight- 
ened thinking of modern civilized man. The result of this tendency 
was, in the search for the important forces activating human be- 
havior, to direct attention to other fields, such as the economic 
and the political. In certain phases the same tendency may be 
observed in the trend of positivistic thought toward emphasis on 
biology and psychology, which gathered force in the latter part of 
the nineteenth century and has continued well into our own. 

Perhaps the first important change in this definition of problems, 
which was highly unfavorable to a serious scientific interest in the 
phenomena of religion, came with the application of the idea of 
evolution to human society. Once evidence from non-literate so- 
cieties, not to speak of many others, was at all carefully studied, 
the observation was inescapable that the life of these so-called 
"primitive" men was to an enormous degree dominated by beliefs 
and practices which would ordinarily be classified according to the 
common-sense thinking of our time as magical and religious. Con- 
temporary non-literate peoples, however, were in that generation 
predominantly interpreted as the living prototypes of our own 
prehistorical ancestors, and hence it was only natural that these 
striking phenomena should have been treated as "primitive" in a 
strictly evolutionary sense, as belonging to the early stages of the 
process of social development. This is the broad situation of the 
first really serious treatment of comparative religion in a sociolog- 
ical context, especially in the work of the founder of modern 
social-anthropology, Tylor,- and of Spencer,-^ perhaps the most pene- 
trating theorist of this movement of thought. Though there was 
here a basis for serious scientific interest, the positivistic scheme 
of thought imposed severe limitations on the kind of significance 

1 It was far less unfavorable to historical contributions than to those affect- 
ing the analytical framework of the subject. 

2 Primitive Culture. 

3 Esp. Principles of Suciulogy, Vol. I. 


which could be attributed to the observed phenomena. Within the 
positivistic schema, the most obvious directions of theoretical inter- 
pretation were two. On the one hand, religious phenomena could 
be treated as the manifestations of underlying biological or psycho- 
logical factors beyond the reach of rational control, or interpreta- 
tions in terms of subjective categories. [ Most generally this pattern 
led to some version of the instinct theory, which has suffered, 
however, some very serious scientific handicaps in that it has never 
proved possible to relate the detailed variations in the behavioral [^ 
phenomena to any corresponding variations in the structure of 
instinctual drives. /The whole scheme has on the level of social 
theory never successfully avoided the pitfalls of reasoning in a 

The other principal alternative was what may be called the 
"rationalistic" variation of positivism,"* the tendency to treat the 
actor as if he were a rational, scientific investigator, acting "reason- 
ably" in the light of the knowledge available to him. This was the 
path taken by Tylor and Spencer with the general thesis that 
primitive magical and religious ideas were ideas which in the situa- 
tion of primitive men, considering the lack of accumulated knowl- 
edge and the limitations of the technique and opportunities of 
observation, it would reasonably be expected they would arrive at. 
With beliefs like that in a soul separable from the body, ritual 
practices in turn are held to be readily understandable^^ It is, how- 
ever, a basic assumption of this pattern of thinking that the only 
critical standards to which religious ideas can be referred are those 
of empirical validity!^ It almost goes without saying that no enlight- 
ened modem could entertain such beliefs, that hence what we 
think of as distinctively religious and magical beliefs, and hence 
also the accompanying practices, will naturally disappear as an 
automatic consequence of the advance in scientific knowledge. 

Inadequate as it is in the light of modern knowledge, this schema 
has proved to be the fruitful starting-point for the development 
of the field, for it makes possible the analysis of action in terms of 
the subjective point of view of the actor in his orientation to specific 
features of the situation in which he acts. Broadly speaking, to 
attempt to deal with the empirical inadequacies of this view by 
jumping directly, through the medium of anti-intellectualistic psy- 

^ See the author's The Structure of Social Action, Chaps. II and III. 


chology, to the more fundamental forces activating human behavior, 
has not proved fruitful. The fruitful path has rather been the intro- 
duction of specific refinements and distinctions within the basic 
stnictural scheme with which "rationalistic positivism" started. The 
body of this paper will be concerned with a review of several of 
the most important of these steps in analytical refinement, showing 
how, taken together, they have led up to a far more comprehensive 
analytical scheme. This can perhaps most conveniently be done 
in terms of the contributions of four important theorists, Pareto, 
Malinowski, Durkheim, and Max Weber, none of whom had any 
important direct influence on any of the others. 

It is of primary significance that Pareto's^ analytical scheme for 
tlie treatment of a social system started precisely with this funda- 
mental frame of reference. Like the earlier positivists, he took as 
his starting-point the cognitive patterns in terms which the actor 
is oriented to his situation of action. Again like them, he based his 
classification on the relation of these patterns to the standards of 
empirical scientific validity— in his terms, to "logico-experimental" 
standards. At this point, however, he broke decisively with the 
main positivistic tradition. He found it necessary, on grounds which 
in view of Pareto's general intellectual character most certainly 
were primarily empirical rather than philosophical, to distinguish 
two modes of deviance from conformity with logico-experimental 
standards. There were, on the one hand, the modes of deviance 
familiar to the older positivists, namely the failure to attain a 
logico-experimental solution of problems intrinsically capable of 
such solution. This may be attributable either to ignorance, the 
sheer absence of logically necessary knowledge of fact, or possibly 
of inference, or to error, to allegations of fact which observation 
can disprove or to logical fallacy in inference. In so far as cogni- 
tive patterns were deviant in this respect, Pareto summed them up 
as "pseudo-scientific" theories. Failure to conform with logico- 
experimental standards was not, however, confined to this mode of 
deviance, but included another, "the theories which surpass expe- 
rience." These involved propositions, especially major premises, 
which are intrinsically incapable of being tested by scientific pro- 
cedures. The attributes of God, for instance, are not entities cap- 

^ The Mind and Society. See also the author's The Structure of Social 
Action, Chap. V— VII; and "Pareto's Central Analytical SLhen\e," Journal of 
Social Philosophy, I, 1935, 1AA-2b2. 


able of empirical observation; hence propositions involving them 
can by logico-experimental methods neither be proved nor dis- 
proved. In this connection, Pareto's primary service lay in the 
clarity with which the distinction was worked out and applied, and 
his demonstration of the essentially prominent role in systems of 
human action of the latter class of cognitive elements. It is pre- 
cisely in the field of religious ideas and of theological and meta- 
physical doctrines that its prominence has been greatest. 

Pareto, however, did not stop here. From tlie very first, he 
treated the cognitive aspects of action in terms of their functional 
interdependence with the other elements of the social system, 
notably with what he called the "sentiments." He thereby broke 
through the "rationalistic bias" of earlier positivism and demon- 
strated by an immense weight of evidence that it was not possible 
to deal adequately with the significance of religious and magical 
ideas solely on the hypothesis that men entertaining them as beliefs 
drew the logical conclusions and acted accordingly. In this con- 
nection, Pareto's position has been widely interpreted as essen- 
tially a psychological one, as a reduction of non-logical ideas to the 
status of mere manifestations of instinct. Critical analysis of his 
work^ shows, however, that this interpretation is not justified, but 
that he left the question of the more ultimate nature of non-cog- 
nitive factors open. It can be shown that the way in which he 
treated the sentiments is incompatible in certain critical respects 
with the hypothesis that they are biologically inherited instinctual 
drives alone. This would involve a determinacy irrespective of 
cultural variation, which he explicitly repudiated. 

It is perhaps best to state that, as Pareto left the subject, there 
were factors particularly prominent in the field of religious be- 
havior which involved the expression of sentiments or attitudes 
other than those important to action in a rationally utilitarian 
context. He did not, however, go far in analyzing the nature of 
these factors. It should, however, be clear that with the introduc- 
tion, as a functionally necessary category, of the non-empirical 
effective elements which cannot be fitted into the pattern of rational 
techniques, Pareto brought about a fundamental break in the neatly 
closed system of positivistic interpretation of the phenomena of 
religion. He enormously broadened the analytical perspective 

6 Cf. The Structure of Social Action, 200 flF., 241 ff. 


which needed to be taken into account before a new theoretical 
integration could be achieved. 

The earlier positivistic theory started with the attempt to ana- 
lyze the relation of the actor to particular types of situations com- 
mon to all human social life, such as death and the experience of 
dreams. This starting-point was undoubtedly sound. The diffi- 
culty lay in interpreting such situations and the actor's relations 
to them too narrowly, essentially as a matter of the solution of 
empirical problems, of the actor's resorting to a "reasonable" course 
of action in the light of beliefs which he took for granted. Pareto 
provided much evidence that this exclusively cognitive approach 
was not adequate, but it remained for Malinowski" to return to 
detailed analysis of action in relation to particular situations in a 
broader perspective. Malinowski maintained continuity with the 
"classical" approach in that he took men's adaptation to practical 
situations by rational knowledge and technique as his initial point 
of reference. Instead of attempting to fit all the obvious facts 
positively into this framework, however, he showed a variety of 
reasons why in many circumstances rational knowledge and tech- 
nique could not provide adequate mechanisms of adjustment to the 
total situation. 

This approach threw into high relief a fundamental empirical 
observation, namely that instead of there being one single set of 
ideas and practices involved, for instance in gardening, canoe- 
building, or deep-sea fishing in the Trobriand Islands, there were 
in fact two distinct systems. On the one hand, the native was 
clearly possessed of an impressive amount of sound empirical 
knowledge of the proper uses of the soil and the processes of plant 
growth. He acted quite rationally in terms of his knowledge and 
above all was quite clear about the connection between intelligent 
and energetic work and a favorable outcome. There is no tend- 
ency to excuse failure on supernatural grounds when it could be 
clearly attributed to failure to attain adequate current standards 
of technical procedure. Side by side with this system of rational 
knowledge and technique, however, and specifically not confused 
with it, was a system of magical beliefs and practices. These be- 
liefs concerned the possible intervention in the situation of forces 
and entities which are "supernatural" in the sense that they are 

"^ See esp. "Magic, Science, and Religion," by Bronislaw Malinowski, edited 
by Robert Redfield, the Free Press, Glencoe, 111. 


not from our point of view objects of empirical observation and 
experience, but rather what Pareto would call "imaginary" enti- 
ties, and on the other hand, entities with a specifically sacred char- 
acter. Correspondingly, the practices were not rational techniques 
but rituals involving specific orientation to this world of super- 
natural forces and entities. It is true that the Trobriander believes 
that a proper performance of magic is indispensable to a successful 
outcome of the enterprise; but it is one of Malinowski's most im- 
portant insights that this attribution applies only to the range of 
uncertainty in the outcome of rational technique, to those factors 
in the situation which are beyond rational understanding and con- 
trol on the part of the actor. 

This approach to the analysis of primitive magic enabled Malin- 
owski clearly to refute both the view of Levy-Bruhl,^ that primitive 
man confuses the realm of the supernatural and the sacred with 
the utilitarian and the rational, and also the view which had been 
classically put forward by Frazer^ that magic was essentially 
primitive science, serving the same fundamental functions. 

Malinowski, however, went beyond this in attempting to under- 
stand the functional necessity for such mechanisms as magic. In 
this connection, he laid stress on the importance of the emotional 
interests involved in the successful outcome of such enterprises. 
The combination of a strong emotional interest with important 
factors of uncertainty, which on the given technical level are in- 
herent in the situation, produces a state of tension and exposes the 
actor to frustration. This, it should be noted, exists not only in 
cases where uncontrollable factors, such as bad weather or insect 
pests in gardening, result in "undeserved" failure, but also in 
cases where success is out of proportion to reasonable expectations 
of the results of intelligence and effort. Unless there were mecha- 
nisms which had the psychological function of mitigating the sense 
of frustration, the consequences would be unfavorable to main- 
taining a high level of confidence or effort, and it is in this connec- 
tion that magic may be seen to perform important positive 
functions. It should be clear that this is a very different level of 
interpretation from that which attributes it only to the primitive 
level of knowledge. It would follow that wherever such uncertainty 
elements enter into the pursuit of emotionally important goals, if 

* Primitive Mentality. 
9 The Golden Bough. 


not magic, at least functionally equivalent phenomena could be 
expected to appear.^" 

In the case of magic, orientation to supernatural entities enters 
into action which is directed to the achievement of practical, em- 
pirical goals, such as a good crop or a large catch of fish. Malin- 
owski, however, calls attention to the fact that there are situations 
which are analogous in other respects but in which no practical 
goal can be pursued. I The type case of this is death") From the 
practical point of view, the Trobrianders, like anyone else, are 
surely aware that "nothing can be done about it." No ritual ob- 
servances will bring the deceased back to life. But precisely for 
this reason, the problem of emotional adjustment is all the greater 
in importance. The significance both practically and emotionally 
of a human individual is of such a magnitude that his death involves 
a major process of readjustment for the survivors. Malinowski 
shows that the death of another involves exposure to sharply con- 
fhcting emotional reactions, some of which, if given free range, 
would lead to action and attitudes detrimental to the social group. 
There is great need for patterns of action which provide occasion 
for the regulated expression of strong emotions, and which in such 
a situation of emotional conflict reinforce those reactions which are 
most favorable to the continued solidarity and functioning of the 
social group. /One may suggest that in no society is action on the 
occasion of death confined to the utilitarian aspects of the disposal 
of the corpse and other practical adjustments"! There is always 
specifically ritual observance of some kind which, as Malinowski 
shows, cannot adequately be interpreted as merely acting out the 
bizarre ideas which primitive man in his ignorance develops about 
the nature of death. 

Malinowski shows quite clearly that neither ritual practices, 
magical or religious, nor the beliefs about supernatural forces and 
entities integrated with them can be treated simply as a primitive 
and inadequate form of rational techniques or scientific knowledge; 
they are qualitatively distinct and have quite different functional 

I*' For example, the field of health is, in spite of the achievements of modem 
medicine, even in our own society a classical example of this type of situation. 
Careful examination of our own treatment of health even through medical prac- 
tice reveals that though magic in a strict sense is not prominent, there is an 
unstable succession of beliefs which overemxihasize the therapeutic possibilities 
of certain diagnostic ideas and therapeutic practices. The efi^ect is to create an 
optimistic bias in favor of successful treatment of disease which apparently has 
considerable functional significance. 


significance in the system of action. Durkheim/' however, went 
farther than Mahnowski in working out the specific character of 
this difference, as well as in bringing out certain further aspects 
of the functional problem. Whereas Malinowski tended to focus 
attention on functions in relation to action in a situation, Durkheim 
became particularly interested in the problem of the specific atti- 
tudes exhibited toward supernatural entities and ritual objects and 
actions. The results of this study he summed up in the fundamental 
distinction between the sacred and the profane. Directly contrast- 
ing tlie attitudes appropriate in a ritual context with those towards 
objects of utilitarian significance and their use in fields of rational 
technique,pie found one fundamental feature of the sacred to be 
its radical dissociation from any utilitarian context."^ The sacred is 
to be treated with a certain specific attitude of respect, which Durk- 
heim identified with the appropriate attitude toward moral 
obligations and authority. If the effect of the prominence which 
Durkheim gives to the conception of the sacred is strongly to rein- 
force the significance of Malinowski's observation that the two sys- 
tems are not confused but are in fact treated as essentially separate, 
it also brings out even more sharply than did Malinowski the inade- 
quacy of the older approach to this range of problems which treated 
them entirely as the outcome of intellectual processes in ways in- 
distinguishable from the solution of empirical problems. Such treat- 
ment could not but obscure the fundamental distinction upon which 
Durkheim insisted. 

The central significance of the sacred in religion, however, served 
to raise in a peculiarly acute form the question of the source of the 
attitude of respect.t Spencer, for instance, had derived it from the 
belief that the souls of the dead reappear to the living, and from 
ideas about the probable dangers of association with them.' Max 
Miiller and the naturalist school, on the other hand, had attempted 
to derive all sacred things in the last analysis from personification 
of certain phenomena of nature which were respected and feared 
because of their intrinsically imposing or terrifying character. Durk- 
heim opened up an entirely new line of thought by suggesting that 
it was hopeless to look for a solution of the problem on this level 
at all. There was in fact no common intrinsic quality of things 
treated as sacred which could account for the attitude of respect. 

11 The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. See also The Structure of 
Social Actiou, Chapter XI. 


In fact, almost everything from the sublime to the ridiculous has in 
some society been treated as sacred. Hence the source of sacredness 
is not intrinsic; the problem is of a diflFerent character. Sacred ob- 
jects and entities are symbols. The problem then becomes one of 
identifying the referents of such symbols. It is that which is symbol- 
ized and not the intrinsic quality of the symbol which becomes 

At this point Durkheim became aware of the fundamental sig- 
nificance of his previous insight that the attitude of respect for 
sacred things was essentially identical with the attitude of respect 
for moral authority. I If sacred things are symbols, the essential 
quality of that which they symbolize is that it is an entity which 
would command moral rcspectr^It was by this path that Durkheim 
arrived at the famous proposition that society is always the real 
object of religious veneration. In this form the proposition is cer- 
tainly unacceptable, but there is no doubt of the fundamental 
importance of Durkheim's insight into the exceedingly close integra- 
tion of the system of religious symbols of a society and the patterns 
sanctioned by the common moral sentiments of the members of the 
community. In his earher work,^- Durkheim had progressed far in 
understanding the functional significance of an integrated system 
of morally sanctioned norms. Against this background the integra- 
tion he demonstrated suggested a most important aspect of the 
functional significance of religion. [Por the problem arises, if moral 
norms and the sentiments supporting them are of such primary im- 
portance, what are the mechanisms by which they are maintained 
other than external processes of enforcement? jIt was Durkheim's 
view that religious ritual was of primary significance as a mechan- 
ism for expressing and reinforcing the sentiments most essential to 
the institutional integration of the society. It can readily be seen 
that this is closely linked to Malinowski's view of the significance 
of funeral ceremonies as a mechanism for reasserting the solidarity 
of the group on the occasion of severe emotional strain. Thus Durk- 
heim worked out certain aspects of the specific relations between 
religion and social structure more sharply than did Malinowski, 
and in addition put the problem in a diflFerent functional perspec- 
tive in that he applied it to the society as a whole in abstraction 
from particular situations of tension and strain for the individual. 

12 Especially De la division du travail and Le suicide. See also The Structure 
of Social Action, Chap. VIII, X. 


One of the most notable features of the development under con- 
sideration lay in the fact that the cognitive patterns associated 
with religion were no longer, as in the older positivism, treated as 
essentially given points of reference, but were rather brought into 
functional relationship with a variety of other elements of social 
system of action. Pareto in rather general terms showed their inter- 
dependence with the sentiments. Malinowski contributed the ex- 
ceedingly important relation to particular types of human situation, 
such as those of uncertainty and death. He in no way contradicted 
the emphasis placed by Pareto on emotional factors or sentiments. 
These, however, acquire their significance for specifically structured 
patterns of action only through their relation to specific situations. 
Malinowski was well aware in turn of the relation of both these 
factors to the solidarity of the social group, but this aspect formed 
the center of Durkheim's analytical attention. Clearly, religious 
ideas could only be treated sociologically in terms of their inter- 
dependence with all four types of factors. 

There were, however, still certain serious problems left un- 
solved. In particular, neither Malinowski nor Durkheim raised the 
problem of the relation of these factors to the variability of social 
structure from one society to another. Both were primarily con- 
cerned with analysis of the functioning of a given social system 
without either comparative or dynamic references. Furthermore, 
Durkheim's important insight into the role of symbolism in religious 
ideas might, without further analysis, suggest that the specific pat- 
terns, hence their variations, were of only secondary importance. 
Indeed, there is clearly discernible in Durkheim's thinking in this 
field a tendency to circular reasoning in that he tends to treat reli- 
gious patterns as a symbolic manifestation of "society," but at the 
same time to define the most fundamental aspect of society as a 
set of patterns of moral and religious sentiment. 

Max Weber approached the whole field in very different terms. 
In his study of the relation between Protestantism and capitalism, ^^ 
his primary concern was with those features of the institutional 
system of modern Western society which were most distinctive in 
differentiating it from the other great civilizations. Having estab- 
lished what he felt to be an adequate relation of congruence be- 
tween the cognitive patterns of Calvinism and some of the principal 
institutionalized attitudes towards secular roles of our own society, 

13 The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 


he set about systematically to place this material in the broadest 
possible comparative perspective through studying especially the 
religion and social structure of China, India, and ancient Judea.^^ 
As a generalized result of these studies, he found it was not pos- 
sible to reduce the striking variations of pattern on the level of 
religious ideas in these cases to any features of an independently 
existent social structure or economic situation, though he continu- 
ally insisted on the very great importance of situational factors in 
a number of diflPerent connections.^^ These factors, however, served 
only to pose the problems with which great movements of religious 
thought have been concerned. But the distinctive cognitive patterns 
were only understandable as a result of a cumulative tradition of 
intellectual effort in grappling with the problems thus presented 
and formulated. 

For present purposes, even more important than Weber's views 
about the independent causal significance of religious ideas is his 
clarification of their functional relation to the system of action. Fol- 
lowing up the same general line of analysis which provides one of 
the major themes of Pareto's and Malinowski's work,l\Veber made 
clear above all that there is a fundamental distinction between the 
significance for human action of problems of empirical causation 
and what, on the other hand, he called the "problem of meaning." J 
In such cases as premature death through accident, the problem of 
! houPit happened in the sense of an adequate explanation of empi- 
rical causes can readily be solved to the satisfaction of most minds 
and yet leave a sense not merely of emotional but of cognitive frus- 
tration with respect to the problem o^why^uch things must hap- 
pen^Correlative with the functional need for emotional adjustment 
to such experiences as death is a cognitive need for understanding, 
for trying to have it "make sense. "^IWeber attempted to show that 
problems of this nature, concerning the discrepancy between nor- 
mal human interest and expectations in any situation or society 
and what actually happens are inherent in the nature of human 
existence.'' They always pose problems of the order which on the 
most generalized line have come to be known as the problem of 
evil, of the meaning of suffering, and the like. In terms of his com- 

^"^ Gesammelte Aufsdtze zur Religionssoziologie. See also The Structure of 
Social Action, Chaps. XIV, XV, and XVII. 

1^ See especially his treatment of the role of the balance of social power in 
the establishment of the ascendancy of the Brahmans in India, and of the inter- 
national position of the people of Israel in the definition of religious problems for 
the prophetic movement. 


parative material, however, Weber shows there are diflFerent direc- 
tions of definition of human situations in which rationally integrated 
solutions of these problems may be sought. It is differentiation with 
respect to the treatment of precisely such problems which consti- 
tute the primary modes of variation between the great systems of 
religious thought. 

Such differences as, for instance, that between the Hindu phi- 
losophy of Karma and transmigration and the Christian doctrine 
of Grace with their philosophical backgrounds are not of merely 
speculative significance. Weber is able to show, in ways which 
correlate directly with the work of Malinowski and Durkheim, how 
intimately such differences in doctrine are bound up with practical 
attitudes towards the most various aspects of everyday life. For 
if we can speak of a need to understand ultimate frustrations in 
order for tliem to "make sense," it is equally urgent that the values 
and goals of everyday life should also "make sense." A tendency to 
integration of these two levels seems to be inherent in human , 
action. Perhaps the most striking feature of Weber's analysis is the 
demonstration of the extent to which precisely the variations in 
socially sanctioned values and goals in secular life correspond to 
the variations in the dominant religious philosophy of the great 

It can be shown with little difficulty that those results of Weber's 
comparative and dynamic study integrate directly with the con- 
ceptual scheme developed as a result of the work of the other 
writers. Thus Weber's theory of the positive significance of religious 
ideas is in no way to be confused with the earlier naively rational- 
istic positivism^ The influence of religious doctrine is not exerted 
through the actor's coming to a conviction and then acting upon it 
in a rational sense. It is rather, on the individual level, a matter of 
introducing a determinate structure at certain points in the system 
of action where, in relation to the situation men have to face, other 
elements, such as their emotional needs, do not suflBce to determine 
specific orientations of behavior^ In the theories of Malinowski and 
Durkheim, certain kinds of sentiments and emotional reactions 
were shown to be essential to a functioning social system. These 
cannot stand alone, however, but are necessarily integrated with 
cognitive patterns; for without them there could be no coordination 
of action in a coherently structured social system. This is because 
functional analysis of the stiucture of action shows that^ situations 
must be subjectively defined,"^and the goals and values to which 


action is oriented must be congruent with these definitions, must, 
that is, have "meaning." 

It is of course never safe to say a scientific conceptual scheme 
has reached a definitive completion of its development. Continual 
change is in the nature of science. There are, however, relative 
degrees of conceptual integration, and it seems safe to say that the 
cumulative results of the work just reviewed constitute in broad 
outline a relatively well-integrated analytical scheme which covers 
most of the more important broader aspects of the role of religion in 
social systems. It is unlikely that in the near future this analytical 
scheme will give way to a radical structural change, though notable 
refinement and revision is to be expected. It is perhaps safe to say 
that it places the sociology of religion for the first time on a footing 
where it is possible to combine empirical study and theoretical 
analysis on a large scale on a level in conformity with the best cur- 
rent standards of social science and psychology. 

When we look back, the schemes of Tylor and Spencer seem 
hopelessly naive and inadequate to the modern sociologist, anthro- 
pologist, or psychologist. It is, however, notable that the develop- 
ment sketched did not take place by repudiating their work and 
attempting to appeal directly to the facts without benefit of theory. 
The process was quite different. It consisted in raising problems 
which were inherent in the earlier scheme and modifying the 
scheme as a result of the empirical observation suggested by these 
problems. Thus Malinowski did not abandon all attempt to relate 
magic to rational technique. Not being satisfied with its identifi- 
cation with primitive science and technology, he looked for specific 
modes of difference from and relation to them, retaining the estab- 
lished interpretation of the nature and functions of rational tech- 
nique as his initial point of reference. It is notable again that in this 
process the newer developments of psychological theory in relation 
to the role of emotional factors have played an essential part. The 
most fruitful results have not, however, resulted from substituting 
a psychological "theory of religion" for another type, but rather 
from incorporating the results of psychological investigation into 
a wider scheme. 

In order for this development to take place it was essential that 
certain elements of philosoj^hical dogmatism in the older positivism 
should be overcome. One reason for the limitations of Spencer's 
insight lay in the presumption that if a cognitive pattern was sig- 
nificant to human action, it must be assimilable to the pattern of 


science. Pareto, however, showed clearly that the "pscudoscientific" 
did not exhaust significant patterns which deviated from scientific 
standards. Malinowski went further in showing the functional rela- 
tion of certain non-scientific ideas to elements of uncertainty and 
frustration which were inherent in the situation of action. Durk- 
heim called attention to the importance of the relation of symbol- 
ism as distinguished from that of intrinsic causality in cognitive 
patterns. Finally, Weber integrated the various aspects of the role 
of non-empirical cognitive patterns in social action in terms of his 
theory of the significance of the problems of meaning and the cor- 
responding cognitive structures, in a way which precluded, for 
analytical purposes, their being assimilated to the patterns of sci- 
ence.^''' All of these distinctions by virtue of which the cognitive 
patterns of religion are treated separately from those of science 
have positive significance for empirical understanding of religious 
phenomena. Like any such scientific categories, they are to the 
scientist sanctioned by the fact that they can be shown to work. 
Failure to make these distinctions does not in the present state of 
knowledge and in terms of the relevant frame of reference^"^ help 
us to understand certain critically important facts of human life. 
What the philosophical significance of this situation may be is not 
as such the task of the social scientist to determine. Only one safe 
prediction on this level can be made. Any new philosophical syn- 
thesis will need positively to take account of these distinctions 
rather than to attempt to reinstate for the scientific level the older 
positivistic conception of the homogeneity of all human thought and 
its problems. If these distinctions are to be transcended it cannot 
well be in the form of "reducing" religious ideas to those of science 
—in the sense of Western intellectual history— or vice versa. The 
proved scientific utility of the distinctions is suflBcient basis on which 
to eliminate this as a serious possibility. 

1^ See the writer's paper, "The Role of Ideas in Social Action," American 
Sociological Review, III, 1938, for a general analytical discussion of the problem 
included in the present volume. 

17 Every treatment of questions of fact and every empirical investigation is 
"in terms of a conceptual scheme." Scientifically the sole sanction of such a con- 
ceptual scheme is its "utihty," the degree to which it "works" in facihtating the 
attainment of the goals of scientific investigation. Hence the conceptual struc- 
ture of any system of scientific theory is subject to the same kind of relativity 
with "arbitrariness." It is subject to the disciplining constraint both of verifica- 
tion in all questions of particular empirical fact, and of logical precision and 
consistency among the many difi^erent parts of a highly complex conceptual 
structure. The "theory of social action" is by now a theoretical structure so 
highly developed and with so many ramifications in both these respects that ele- 
ments structurally essential to it cannot be lightly dismissed as expressing only 
"one point of view." 


The Present Position and Prospects 
of Systematic Theory in Sociology 

THE GENERAL NATURE and Functions of Systematic Theory. It is 
scarcely too much to say that the most important single index of the 
state of maturity of a science is the state of its systematic theory. 
This includes the character of the generalized conceptual scheme 
in use in the field, the kinds and degrees of logical integration of 
the diflFerent elements which make it up, and the ways in which it 
is actually being used in empirical research. On this basis the thesis 
may be advanced that sociology is just in the process of emerging 
into the status of a mature science. Heretofore it has not enjoyed 
the kind of integration and directed activity which only the avail- 
ability and common acceptance and employment of a well-articu- 
lated generalized theoretical system can give to a science. The main 
framework of such a system is, however, now available, though this 
fact is not as yet very generally appreciated and much in the way 
of development and refinement remains to be done on the purely 
theoretical level, as well as its systematic use and revision in actual 
research. It may therefore be held that we stand on the threshold 
of a definitely new era in sociology and the neighboring social 
science fields. 

"Theory" is a term which covers a wide variety of different things 
which have in common only the element of generalized concept- 
ualization. The theory of concern to the present paper in the first 
place constitutes a "system" and thereby differs from discrete 
"theories," that is, particular generalizations about particular phe- 
nomena or classes of them. A theoretical system in the present sense 
is a body of logically interdependent generalized concepts of em- 
pirical reference. Such a system tends, ideally, to become "logically 
closed," to reach such a state of logical integration that every logical 


implication of any combination of propositions in the system is 
explicitly stated in some other proposition in the same system.^ 

In a highly developed system of theory there may be a wide va- 
riety of different types of generalized concepts and functions which 
they may serve. A thorough discussion of the possibilities cannot be 
undertaken here, so attention will be confined to those most vital 
to the general status of the scientific field. The two most general 
functions of theory are the facilitation of description and analysis. 
The two are most intimately connected since it is only when the 
essential facts about a phenomenon have been described in a care- 
fully systematic and orderly manner that accurate analysis becomes 
possible at all. 

The basic category of all scientific description seems to be that 
of empirical system. The empirical references of statements of fact 
cannot be isolated from each other, but each describes one aspect 
or feature of an interconnected whole which, taken as a whole, has 
some measures of independent significance as an entity. Apart from 
theoretical conceptualization there would appear to be no method 
of selecting among the indefinite number of varying kinds of fac- 
tual observation which can be made about a concrete phenomenon 
or field so that the various descriptive statements about it articulate 
into a coherent whole, which constitutes an "adequate," a "deter- 
minate" description. Adequacy in description is secured in so far 
as determinate and verifiable answers can be given to all the scien- 
tifically important questions involved. What questions are impor- 
tant is largely determined by the logical structure of the general- 
ized conceptual scheme which, implicitly or explicitly, is employed. 

Specific descriptive propositions often refer to particular aspects 
or properties of an empirically existent set of phenomena. Such 
propositions are, however, empirically meaningless unless the "what" 
which they qualify is clearly and determinately conceived and 
defined. This "what," the interconnected empirically existent phe- 
nomena which constitute the field of description and analysis for a 
scientific investigation, is what is meant by an empirical "system." 
It is that which can, for scientific purposes, be treated at the same 
time as a body of phenomena sufficiently extensive, complex and 
diversified so that the results of their study are significant and not 
merely truistic, and sufficiently limited and simplified so that the 

1 For a fuller development of this view of theory, see the autlior's The 
Structure of Social Action, (New York: McGraw-Hill Co., 1937), especially 
Chaps. I and XIX. 


problems involved are manageable and the investigator does not 
get lost in the maze. 

The functions of a generalized conceptual scheme on the descrip- 
tive level seem to be performed mainly in terms of t\vo types of 
conceptual elements. The first consists in what is called the "frame 
of reference." This is the most general framework of categories in 
terms of which empirical scientific work "makes sense." Thus, in 
classical mechanics, three-dimensional rectilinear space, time, mass, 
location, motion are the essential elements of the frame of refer- 
ence. Every descriptive statement, to be applicable to a mechanical 
system must be referable to one or more "particles" each with a 
given mass, capable of location in space, changing its location in 
time through motion, etc. Besides providing the specific categories 
in terms of which a system is described, the function of the frame 
of reference is above all to provide a test of the determinacy of the 
description of a system. It is a logical implication of the structure of 
the conceptual system that there is a limited number of essential 
categories, specific values for which must be obtained before the 
description can be determinate. Its use is the only way of locating 
the important gaps in available knowledge. 

The second level is that of the structure of systems as such. Phe- 
nomena which are significantly interrelated, which constitute a sys- 
tem, are intrinsically interrelated on the structural level. This fact 
seems to be inherent in the most general frame of reference of em- 
pirical knowledge itself, which implies the fundamental significance 
of the concept of system as that is taken for granted here. Structure 
is the "static" aspect of the descriptive mode of treatment of a sys- 
tem. From the structural point of view a system is composed of 
"units," of sub-systems which potentially exist independently, and 
their structural interrelations. Thus a system in mechanics is "made 
up" of particles as its units. The structure of the system consists in 
the number of particles, their properties, such as mass, and their 
interrelations, such as relative locations, velocities and directions of 

The functions of the frame of reference and of structural cate- 
gories in their descriptive use are to state the necessary facts, and 
the setting for solving problems of dynamic analysis, the ultimate 
goal of scientific investigation. Besides the immense possibilities of 
variation in the scope of analysis, there are two aspects of the goal 
itself; first the "causal explanation" of past specific phenomena or 
processes and the prediction of future events; second, the attain- 


ment of generalized analytieal knowledge, of "laws" which can be 
applied to an indefinite number of specific cases with the use of 
the appropriate factual data. The attainment of the two goals, or 
aspects of the same goal, go hand in hand. On the one hand specific 
causal explanation is attainable only through the application of 
some generalized analytical knowledge; on the other, the extension 
of analytical generalization is only possible by generalization from 
empirical cases and verification in terms of them. 

In both respects scientific advance consists especially in the grad- 
ual widening of the scope of dynamic analysis. Even the simplest 
rational practical activity would be impossible without the ability 
to establish a dynamic relation between a single, simple "necessary 
condition" and a consequent effect under the assumption that in a 
relevant degree "other things are equal." This, applied in a partic- 
ular case, implies some degree of generalization that this kind of 
factor is a necessary condition of the kind of effect, thus, that "boil- 
ing" for a certain length of time— i.e., a generalized type of ante- 
cedent process— is necessary if potatoes are to be "cooked"— i.e., 
reach a certain kind of observable state. This kind of common- 
sense analysis merges gradually into science in proportion to the 
complexity of the system of dynamically interdependent variables 
which can be treated together, and to the breadth of applicability 
to particular situations of the analytical generalizations commanded. 

Sometimes one aspect is predominant in the development of a 
body of scientific knowledge, sometimes the other. Where, how- 
ever, breadth of applicability can be attained only through extreme 
simplicity in the relations of variables, only a secondary order of 
scientific significance can be attributed to the results. For where 
only very simple relationships, or only those of two or three vari- 
ables, can be involved in a dynamic generalization it must inevit- 
ably remain undesirably abstract in the sense that in very few cases 
of concrete empirical systems, will these relationships and these 
variables be the only or the predominant ones involved in the solu- 
tion of the pressing empirical problems. Hence, the ideal of scien- 
tific theory must be to extend the dynamic scope of analysis of com- 
plex systems as a whole as far as possible. It is the attainment of 
this ideal which presents the greatest theoretical difficulties to 

Put a little differently, the essential feature of dynamic analysis 
in the fullest sense is the treatment of a body of interdependent 
phenomena simultaneously, in the mathematical sense. The sim- 


plest case is the analysis of the effect of variation in one antecedent 
factor, but this ignores the reciprocal effect of these changes on this 
factor. The ideal solution is the possession of a logically complete 
system of dynamic generalizations which can state all the elements 
of reciprocal interdependence between all the variables of the sys- 
tem. The ideal has, in the formal sense, been attained only in the 
systems of differential equations of analytical mechanics. All other 
sciences are limited to a more "primitive" level of systematic the- 
oretical analysis. 

For this level of dynamic analysis to be feasible, there seem to be 
two essential necessary conditions. On the one hand, tlie variables 
need to be of an empirical character such that the particulars within 
the generalized categories are in actuality the relevant statements 
of fact about a given state of the empirical system as indicated by 
the structure of problems of the science. On the other hand, the 
formal logical character of these concepts must be such as to be 
susceptible to special types of technical manipulation. The only 
kind of technical manipulation so far available which makes simul- 
taneous dynamic analysis of interdependence of several variables 
in a complex system possible in a completely rigorous sense, is the 
matiiematics of the differential calculus and some of its more refined 

To be susceptible of this type of analytical manipulation a vari- 
able must be of a very particular sort— it must vary only in numeri- 
cally quantitative value on a continuum. This requirement greatly 
narrows the range of observational possibility. In many cases even 
where numerical continua can be observed they are not necessarily 
the variables of greatest empirical significance. 

The most essential condition of successful dynamic analysis is 
continual and systematic reference of every problem to the state of 
the system as a whole. If it is not possible to provide for that by 
explicit inclusion of every relevant fact as the value of a variable 
which is included in the dynamic analysis at that point, there must 
be some method of simplification. Logically, this is possible only 
through the removal of some generalized categories from the role 
of variables and their treatment as constants. An analytical system 
of the type of mechanics does just this for certain elements outside 
the system which are conditional to it. But it is also logically feasi- 
ble within the system. This is essentially what happens when struc- 
tural categories are used in the treatment of dynamic problems. 


Their function is to simplify the dynamic problems to the point 
where they are manageable without the possibility of refined mathe- 
matical analysis. At the same time the loss, which is very great, is 
partly compensated by relating all problems explicitly and sys- 
tematically to the total system. For the structure of a system as 
described in the context of a generalized conceptual scheme is a 
genuinely technical analytical tool. It ensures that nothing of vital 
importance is inadvertently overlooked, and ties in loose ends, 
giving determinancy to problems and solutions. It minimizes the 
danger, so serious to common-sense thinking, of filling gaps by re- 
sort to uncriticized residual categories. 

It should be noted that in mechanics the structure of the system 
does not enter in as a distinct theoretical element. For descriptive 
purposes, it is of course relevant for any state of the system. But 
on the dynamic plane it dissolves into process and interdependence. 
This calls attention to the important fact that structure and process 
are highly relative categories. Structure does not refer to any onto- 
logical stability in phenomena but only to a relative stability— to 
sufficiently stable uniformities in the results of underlying processes 
so that their constancy within certain limits is a workable pragmatic 

Once resort is made to the structure of a system as a positive 
constituent of dynamic analysis there must be a way of linking these 
"static" structural categories and their relevant particular statements 
of fact to the dynamically variable elements in the system. This 
link is supplied by the all-important concept of function. Its crucial 
role is to provide criteria of the importance of dynamic factors and 
processes within the system. They are important in so far as they 
have functional significance to the system, and their specific im- 
portance is understood in terms of the analysis of specific functional 
relations between the parts of the system and between it and its 

The significance of the concept of function implies the conception 
of the empirical system as a "going concern." Its structure is that 
system of determinate patterns which empirical observation shows, 
within certain limits, "tend to be maintained" or on a somewhat 
more dynamic version "tend to develop" according to an empiri- 
cally constant pattern (e. g. the pattern of growth of a young 
organism ) . 

Functional significance in this context is inherently teleological. 


A process or set of conditions either "contributes" to the mainte- 
nance (or development) of the system or it is "dysfunctional" in 
that it detracts from the integration, effectiveness, etc., of the sys- 
tem. It is thus the functional reference of all particular conditions 
and process to the state of the total system as a going concern 
which provides the logical equivalent of simultaneous equations in 
a fully developed system of analytical theory. This appears to be 
the only way in which dynamic interdependence of variable factors 
in a system can be explicitly analyzed without the technical tools 
of mathematics and the operational and empirical prerequisites of 
their employment. 

The logical type of generalized theoretical system under discus- 
sion may thus be called a "structural-functional system" as distin- 
guished from an analytical system. It consists of the generalized 
categories necessary for an adequate description of states of an 
empirical system. On the one hand, it includes a system of struc- 
tuj-al categories which must be logically adequate to give a deter- 
minate description of an empirically possible, complete empirical 
system of the relevant class. One of the prime functions of system 
on this level is to ensure completeness, to make it methodically im- 
possible to overlook anything important, and thus explicitly to 
describe all essential structural elements and relations of the sys- 
tem. For if this is not done implicitly, uncriticized allegations about 
the missing elements will always play a part in determining con- 
clusions and interpretations. 

On the other hand, such a system must also include a set of dy- 
namic functional categories. These must articulate directly with the 
structural categories— they must describe processes by which these 
particular structures are maintained or upset, and the relations of 
the system to its environment are mediated. This aspect of the sys- 
tem must also be complete in the same sense. 

On a relatively complete and explicit level this type of general- 
ized system has been most fully developed in physiology- and more 
recently if less completely in psychology. The anatomical structure 
of the organism is an essential fixed point of reference for all phy- 
siological analyses of its functioning. Function in relation to the 
maintenance of this structure in a given environment is the source 
of criteria for the attribution of significance to processes such as 

- For the place of structural-functional analysis in physiology, see especially 
W. B. Cannon, The Wisdom of the Body, (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 


respiration, nutrition, etc., and of their dynamic interdependence. 
In recent psychology, it is "character structure" or personahty which 
plays the role analogous to that of anatomical structure in biology 
while "motives" in relation to situations are the dynamic elements. 


Unsatisfactory Types of Theory in Recent Sociology. It is the 
primary thesis of this paper that the structural-functional type of 
system is the one which is most likely and suitable to play a domi- 
nant role in sociological theory. In varying degrees it has, though 
largely implicitly and in a fragmentary fashion, been in actual use 
in the field. But until quite recently the predominant trends of 
thought in this field have been such as to prevent its emergence 
into the central explicit position which would allow it to develop 
freely all its potentialities for fruitful integration of the science. On 
the one hand, there has been a school of empiricism which was 
blind to the functions of theory in science— often mistakenly think- 
ing it was following the model of the physical sciences. On the 
other hand, what has gone by the name of "theory" has consisted 
mainly in conceptual structures on quite a different level from 
what is here meant by a generalized theoretical system. 

One major strand of thought in the history of sociological theory 
has been that closely associated with, indeed merging into, the phi- 
losophy of history. The central interest here has been in the estab- 
lishment of a highly generalized pattern in the processes of change 
of human societies as a whole, whether it be linear evolutionism, 
cyclical or dialectic process, etc. Perhaps the evolutionary anthro- 
pologists like Tylor and Morgan have been most prominent here. 
But it also, in certain respects, includes Marx and his followers, 
Veblen and many others. 

The element of generality which justifies calling these writers 
particularly theorists lies in the comprehensiveness of the empirical 
generalizations they have formulated and attempted to establish. 
The theory of analytical mechanics, or of general physiology, on 
the other hand, does not as such contain any empirical generaliza- 
tions at all. It is a set of tools by which, working on adequate data, 
both specific empirical solutions and empirical generalizations can 
be arrived at. To make empirical generalization the central focus of 
theory in a science is to put the cart before the horse. In proportion 
as a generalized theoretical system is really perfected, and, what 


necessarily goes with it, empirical research and knowledge of fact 
builds up, it becomes possible to attain more and more compre- 
hensive empirical generalizations. Indeed it can be said that any 
system of sound empirical generalizations implies a generalized 
theoretical system. 

But concentrating theoretical attention on this level of empirical 
generalization to the exclusion of the other is very risky. Such sys- 
tems have had a notorious tendency to overreach the facts and their 
own analytical underpinning and by and large have not, in the 
meanings originally meant by their authors, stood the test of com- 
petent criticism. On this level no competent modern sociologist can 
be a Comtean, a Spencerian, or even a Marxian. 

The prominence of this tendency has had two very serious un- 
favorable consequences. First it has, by focussing attention at the 
wrong place, impeded the progress of the subject. It has attempted 
to attain, at one stroke, a goal which can only be approached grad- 
ually by building the necessary factual foundations and analytical 
tools. It is not surprising that such ill-advised attempts should lead 
to difficulties. As these have become increasingly formidable and 
evident, the second consequence has appeared. Since "theory" has 
been so largely identified with such attempts at comprehensive 
empirical generalization, tlieir failure has discredited not only 
themselves, which is only right and proper, but also everything else 
which has gone by the name of theory. This reaction has contribut- 
ed greatly to a kind of "empiricism" which has blindly rejected the 
help of theoretical tools in general. While one tendency, it may be 
said, has sought to create a great building by a sheer act of will 
without going through the requisite of technical procedures, the 
other has tried to make a virtue of working with bare hands alone, 
rejecting all tools and mechanical equipment. 

A second major strand of "theoretical" thinking in sociology has 
been that which has attempted to assess the importance of various 
"factors" in the determination of social phenomena. Usually it has 
taken the form of attempting to prove the exclusive or predominant 
importance of one such factor— geographic, biological, economic or 
what not. 

This type of theorizing, though in a diflFerent way, also puts the 
cart before the horse. It also involves a kind of generalization which 
can only be soundly established as a result of the kind of investiga- 
tion in which generalized theory, in the present sense, is an indis- 


pensable tool. If it is sound it, like the other, will imply a system of 
theory, and will depend upon it. But it is unlikely that such an un- 
criticized implicit system will be as adequate as one which has been 
carefully and explicitly worked out in direct relation to the facts. 

Indeed a very large part of this "factor" theorizing has had the 
eflFect, if not the function, of evading the problem of a generalized 
theory of social systems. It has tended to do this in two ways. The 
major trend, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries, has been to at- 
tribute the principal role to factors which are not specific to social 
systems, notably the environmental (e.g., geographical), and the 
biological and the economic. 

In the first two of these cases the most important elements of 
theoretical generality have already been thoroughly worked out 
by investigations in other fields which have high prestige in the 
scientific world. Though on principle new discoveries in any field 
of application should lead to revision of the theoretical structure of 
a science, in fact, in the case of biology, for instance, there was 
little chance of human social tail being able to wag the dog of all 
known lower organic species. If, on the one hand, it was assumed 
that men, being organisms, were subject to biological laws, and, on 
the other, that the theory of natural selection was fully established 
as explaining the process of development of organic species in gen- 
eral, the predominant tendency would naturally be simply to seek 
in human social development examples of the working of the prin- 
ciples of natural selection without too much attention to the dis- 
tinctive features of human society in other respects. Thus both 
economic competition and international rivalries have been widely 
interpreted in these terms. This has led to widespread neglect of 
the fundamental canon of science, the need to study in the very first 
instance the facts of the particular phenomena. 

This unfortunate effect has been reinforced by another circum- 
stance. Until recently it has been rare to find very much insight into 
the senses in which scientific theory on practically all levels is 
abstract. Thus natural selection has been interpreted as a general- 
ized description of the process by which change in organic species 
came about— not as the formulation of certain elements in the pro- 
cess which might have a more or less dominant role relative to 
others in different cases. The effect of this tendency to "empirical 
closure" of a system is to make its application to any given field, 
especially a new one, a rigidly simple question of whether it "ap- 


plies" or not. Application is interpreted in "all or none" terms— it 
is either a case or not. If it is in any sense a case, then there is no 
incentive to look further and study the interdependence of the 
factors thus formulated with others which might be involved, since 
the latter are assumed not to exist or to be unimportant.^ 

A slightly different though closely analogous situation occurs 
when the factors singled out are of certain types predominantly 
obsersed in human social behavior, but are treated in such a way 
as to ignore major elements of the context in which they operate in 
social systems. 

A leading example of this type is the kind of theory which lays 
primary emphasis on rational adaptation of means to given ends in 
technological or economic contexts. This tendency has been predom- 
inant in the whole "utilitarian" tradition of social thought since 
Locke and in a modified form is decisive for Marx and Veblen. As 
I have shown in other connections this mode of treatment of social 
action as a whole has implied a very specific form of generalized 
theoretical system which has very seriously broken down in the 
course of the last generation of theoretical work.^ The key to this 
process of breakdown is the emergence into a position of central 
prominence of certain modes and factors in the integration of social 
systems which could not be taken account of in utilitarian terms. 

The utilitarian type of factor analysis is analogous to the environ- 
mental and biological in that it singles out elements which also can 
be treated in complete abstraction from social systems as such. 
Actual rational behavior is not, of course, observed apart from social 
situations. But the implicit conceptual scheme is such that other 
elements, of a "social" rather than a biological or environmental 
character, enter only in the role of conditions of the sitiiation in 
which people act. They become, that is, theoretically equivalent to 
the physical environment and are thus deprived of any distinctive 
theoretical role in the social system of action itself. 

All of the above factor theories have impeded the development of 
a theory of social systems by imposing an implicit generalized con- 
ceptual scheme which denied the empirical relevance of a distinc- 
tively social system— as a generalized theoretical system or a class 
of empirical systems. There would be no objection to this if the 

•** The above is what Whitehead has called "the fallacy of misplaced con- 

■* See Talcott Parsons, The Structure of Social Action, Chaps. Ill, XII. 


resulting theoretical structures had proved to be adequate for the 
solution of the pressing ranges of empirical problems which have 
dominated social science. At point after point, however, this em- 
pirical inadequacy has come to be exposed and has necessitated 
theoretical reconstruction.^ A common strategy has been the retreat 
from one lost factor theory to another— thus from a rational utilitar- 
ian type to a bio-psychological instinct theory or one of natural 
selection. None of these has, however, provided more than tem- 
porary relief from the relentless pressure of empirical criticism and 
developing empirical knowledge. 

It is not surprising that in this atmosphere attempts should have 
been made to elevate the neglected distinctively "social" elements 
into a dominant factor in the same sense— to oppose a "sociolo- 
gistic"^ theory to an economic or biological one. The most notable 
example of this possibility is what is in part the actual significance, 
but still more the predominant interpretation, placed upon Durk- 
heim's famous formula that "society is a reality sui generis" which 
"constrains" the thought, feelings and actions of individuals. If how- 
ever this alternative is taken as simply another "factor" theory it 
involves the same theoretical and empirical diflBculties which all 
other similar constructions do. It throws light on some empirical 
problems but only at the cost of increasing difficulties in other 

Not the least deleterious eflFect of the "factor" type of theorizing, 
to which it is even more subject than the empirical generalization 
type, is the division of the field into warring "schools" of thought. 
On this basis every school has some solid empirical justification but 
equally each, as a result of the need for closure of the system, in- 
volves insuperable difficulties and conflicts with other interpreta- 
tions of the same phenomena. Professional pride and vested inter- 
ests get bound up with the defense or promotion of one theory 
against all others and the result is an impasse. In such a situation it 
is not surprising that theory as such should be discredited and many 

5 Two conspicuous fields are the breakdown of the theories of social evolu- 
tion of the Spencerian type, and the growing dissatisfaction with an individual- 
istic utilitarian interpretation of the modem industrial economy. 

^ A term used by P. A. Sorokin in Contemporary Sociological Theories, 
(New York: Harper and Bros., 1928). 

■^ It is the author's contention that progress toward the formulation of a 
genuine structural-functional system is a far more important aspect of Durk- 
heim's work. See The Structure of Social Action, Chaps. VIII-XI and Section III 


of the sanest, least obsessive minds become disillusioned with the 
whole thing and become dogmatic empiricists, denying as a matter 
of principle that theory can do anything for science. They feel it 
is, rather, only a matter of speculative construction which leads 
away from respect for facts, and that thus the progress of science 
can consist only in the accumulation of discrete, unrelated, un- 
guided discoveries of fact. 

Such empiricists often invoke the supposed authority of the nat- 
ural sciences. But the whole history of science shows that this is a 
gross misinterpretation. Perhaps the most extraordinary view is the 
relatively common contention that the glory of physics is mathe- 
matical method, while at the same time "theory" is an unnecessary 
impediment. But rn^thematics in physics is theory. The greatness 
of Newton and Laplace, of Einstein and Heisenberg is as theorists 
in the strictest sense. A science of physics without higher mathe- 
matics would be the real equivalent of the empiricists' ideal for 
social science. This shows quite clearly that what we need is not 
a science purified of theoretical infection— but one with the nearest 
possible approach to an equivalent of the role of mathematical 
analysis in physics. The trouble with sociology has not been that 
it has had too much theory but that it has been plagued with the 
wrong kinds and what it has had of the right has been insufficiently 
developed and used to meet the need. 


Approaches to a Generalized Social System. In various partial 
aspects of the field of human social behavior highly developed 
theoretical schemes of what are here considered the right kind 
have existed. This is notably true of economic theory, especially 
since the discovery of the principle of marginal utility, and of psy- 
chological theory, especially since Freud. 

Economics has directly followed the methodological model of 
analytical mechanics and has been able to do so because, uniquely 
among social disciplines, it can deal primarily with numerically 
quantitative continua as variables. It has proved possible in prin- 
ciple to describe the state of a price economy in terms of the values 
of the variables of a system of simultaneous differential equations, 
though it is not possible operationally to ascertain the exact values 
of the variables nor would it be mathematically possible to solve 
the equations because of their excessive complexity. Hence most 
actual working economic analysis has had to fall back on more 


"primitive" analytical methods, and use the system of diflFerential 
equations only as a methodological model. 

But even more serious than this limitation has been the difficulty 
of fitting economic theory into the broader context of the social 
system as a whole. This was not a serious problem to the classical 
economists since they implicitly assumed a "utilitarian" system 
which gave economic "factors" the dominant dynamic role.^ The 
general direction of solution seems to be that technical economic 
analysis makes sense only in the context of an "institutional" struc- 
ture of social relationship patterns which is not, as such, part of 
the system dynamically treated by economic theory, but must con- 
stitute a set of constant data for it. Exactly what this means when 
the institutional data are treated on structural-functional terms 
while the economic data are not, remains on the whole an unsolved 

It is significant that concern with economic theory as well as 
training in mathematics and physics constituted the background of 
by far the most important attempt so far made to build up a 
generalized analysis of social systems as a whole in a dynamic 
analytical system on the model of mechanics— that of Pareto.^ 
Pareto's attempt undoubtedly put systematic theoretical thinking 
about social systems on a new level; it is unique in the literature 
for its comprehensiveness and the sophistication of its understand- 
ing of the physical science model. And yet it must be regarded as 
a relative failure. 

Pareto started with the view that economic theory had become 
a genuine dynamic system, but it was, relative to concrete social 
problems (including those which are usually classed as "eco- 
nomic"), empirically inadequate because unduly abstract. Hence 
he sought to analyze the most important missing variables in a 
total social system in terms of their dynamic interdependence with 
those of economics. He took the "logical action," which is involved 
in the economic as well as certain other phases of the orientation of 
action, as a starting point and attempted to analyze the remaining 
residual category of nonlogical action inductively in order to reveal 
the principal variables. 

The result is highly complex and not very satisfactory. He iso- 
lated three variables which are very heterogeneous relative to one 

8 See The Structure of Social Action, Chaps. Ill and IV. 

8 Cf. L. J. Henderson, Pareto's General Sociology: A Physiologist's Inter- 
pretation, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1937) Parsons, The Structure 
of Social Action, Chaps. V-VII. 


another. The most satisfactorily analyzed, the "derivations," proves 
to be empirically the least significant. Even this, however, cannot 
be reduced to variation on a continuum but its values must be 
treated in terms of a four-fold qualitative classification. The same 
is true of the most important, the "residues," except that here the 
classification is far more complex and its basis of principle in the 
structure of social systems of action far less clear. Indeed it gives 
the impression of a great deal of arbitrariness. Finally, with the 
fourth variable, social heterogeneity, Pareto shifts to an altogether 
different level. The first three referred immediately to elements of 
the motivation or orientation of the action of individuals. The 
fourth refers to an aspect of the structure of a system of social rela- 
tionships. Its appearance may be taken as an indication of the ex- 
treme difficulty of operating in this field without structural cate- 
gories. Its relevance to Pareto's principal empirical generalizations 
is very clear and it serves the function of giving empirical relevance 
to his analytical scheme. But strictly speaking it has no place in the 
latter as a variable but should, with the aid of the relevant data, 
be derivable from the system of variables. 

It was said above that Pareto's attempt was a relative failure. 
He certainly succeeded in avoiding all the principal theoretical 
difficulties discussed above. His system is an extraordinarily useful 
instrument of criticism. It also, when skillfully used as by Pareto 
himself, yields important though rather general empirical insights. 
But it has signally failed to work as a direct source of detailed 
analytical tools in detailed research. What is successfully established 
is too vague and general. The gaps have to be filled by arbitrary ad 
hoc constructions and classifications or by the introduction of struc- 
tural categories which are merely tolerated, not systematically 

The conclusion is that Pareto took what is, in the present state 
of sociological knowledge, the less fruitful alternative. A structural- 
functional system must sacrifice much of the dynamic flexibility 
Pareto aimed at. But it can hope to counterbalance this by a great 
gain in explicit systematic determinacy and precision in detailed 
analytical use. 

The other alternative, the structural-functional type, also has 
important antecedents. The most important of these are the follow- 
ing four: 

1. The developments of modern dynamic and clinical psychology 
which conceive the human individual as a dynamic structural-func- 


tional system. Psychoanalytic theory has been the most important 
single influence in this field but stands by no means alone. This psy- 
chological theory is highly important both as a methodological 
model for that of a social system and as itself providing some of the 
most essential components of it. 

2. Modern social and cultural anthropology, especially that with 
something of a "functional" slant though by no means confined to 
those writers usually designated as belonging to the functional 
school. Probably Malinowski's is so far the most important single 
name. Perhaps the basic point is that the scale of non-literate socie- 
ties has been small and there has been no established division into 
different specialisms in dealing with it. Hence the anthropologist, 
when dealing with a society, was more likely than other social 
scientists to see it as a single functioning system. 

3. Durkheim and his followers. As has been noted above, Durk- 
heim in many respects tended to set a "sociologistic" factor tlieory 
over against the individualistic factor theories current in his day. 
But along with this heading there is a more important strand in his 
thought which gained increasingly in strength in the course of his 
career. This was a genuinely structural-functional treatment of the 
social system— with a gradual clarification of the more important 
elements of it. This is above all evident from the way in which he 
treated empirical problems, in his analysis of the stability of a sys- 
tem of functionally differentiated roles in his Division of Labor, in 
his study, Le Suicide, and in his interpretation of religious ritual in 
The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. 

4. Max Weber. In part Weber can serve as a type case of the 
more generalized thinking of the historical disciplines in the institu- 
tional field. But also, in reaction against the individualistic factor 
theories of his time, he went much farther than any other writer to- 
ward the underpinning of empirical study of comparative institu- 
tions with a generalized theoretical scheme. Incomplete though 
this was, it converged with Durkheim's scheme and supplemented 
it in the directions where comparative structural perspective is 
most important.^^ 

10 In addition to the The Structure of Social Action, Chaps. XIV-XVII, see 
the author's introduction to Weber's Theory of Social and Economic Organization 
(translated from Wirtschaft und Gcsellschaft, Part I). 



Outline of a Structural-Functional Theory of Social Systems. 
Limitations of space forbid following out the substantive problems 
in the development of the present state of the structural-functional 
theory of social systems. It is, however, contended that, developing 
with particular clarity though by no means exclusively in the above 
four sources, we now have the main outline of an articulated system 
of structural-functional theory available and in actual use. The final 
section of this paper will be devoted to an exceedingly bare and 
general sketch of this main outline. Of necessity most of the details 
will have to be omitted. As in every developing theoretical struc- 
ture, there are innumerable difficulties and unsolved problems 
which also cannot be entered into. 

The first essential of a generalized theoretical system is the "frame 
of reference." For the social system in question it is quite clear that 
it is that of "action" or perhaps better "actor-situation" in a sense 
analogous to the organism-environment frame of reference of the 
biological sciences. 

The actor-situation frame of reference is shared with psychology, 
but for a social system it takes on the added complication intro- 
duced by the treatment of a plurality of inter acting actors in situ- 
ations which are in part discrete, in part shared in common. 

The unit of all social systems is the human individual as actor, 
as an entity which has the basic characteristics of striving toward 
the attainment of "goals," of "reacting" emotionally or affectively 
toward objects and events, and of, to a greater or less degree, cog- 
nitively knowing or understanding his situation, his goals and him- 
self. Action is, in this frame of reference, inherently structured on a 
"normative," "teleological," or possibly better, a "voluntaristic" sys- 
tem of "coordinates" or axes. A goal is by definition a "desirable" 
state of affairs, failure to attain it a "frustration." Affective reaction 
includes components of pleasurable or painful significance to the 
actor, and of approval or disapproval of the object or state which 
occasions the reaction. Finally, cognitive orientation is subject to 
standards of "correctness" and "adequacy" of knowledge and under- 

This essential "normative orientation" of action directs attention 
to the crucial role of the "patterns" which define the desirable 
direction of action in the form of goals and standards of behavior. 
This system of normative patterns seems to be best treated as one 


very important element of the "culture" of the group, which also 
includes cognitive patterns of "ideas," symbols and other elements. 
P'rom the present point of view, however, a social system is a sys- 
tem of action, i.e., of motivated human behavior, not a system of 
culture patterns. It articulates with culture patterns in one connec- 
tion just as it does with physical and biological conditions in 
another. But a "system of culture" is a different order of abstraction 
from a "social system" though it is to a large degree an abstraction 
from the same concrete phenomena.^ ^ 

In all this, the point of view of interpretation of action has a 
peculiar duality. One essential component is its "meaning" to the 
actor, whether on a consciously explicit level or not. The other is 
its relevance to an "objective" concatenation of objects and events 
as analyzed and interpreted by an observer. 

In a sense this basic frame of reference consists in the outline of 
the structural categories of human personality in a psychological 
sense, in terms of the particular values of which each particular 
character structure or sequences of action must be described and 
analyzed. But the structure of social systems cannot be derived 
directly from the actor-situation frame of reference. It requires 
functional analysis of the complications introduced by the inter- 
action of a plurality of actors. 

Even in abstraction from social relationships, features of the situ- 
ation of action and the biologically determined needs and capacities 
of an individual provide certain fixed points of determination in 
the system of action. The functional needs of social integration and 
the conditions necessary for the functioning of a plurality of actors 
as a "unit" system sufficiently well- integrated to exist as such impose 

But functional needs, whether their ultimate sources be biologi- 
cal, socio-cultural or individual are, so far as they are dynamically 
relevant to this conceptual scheme, satisfied through processes of 
action. The need to eat is biologically determined, but the human 
processes of food production and the variations in the social cus- 
toms of food taste and consumption are no more biologically de- 
termined than any other social phenomena, such as, for instance 

11 For the distinction between action and culture, see The Structure of 
Social Action, Chap. XIX, pp. 762 fF. This view diflFers from that of culture and 
social system set forth in Kluckhohn and Kelly, "The Concept of Culture," in 
Ralph Linton, ed.. The Science of Man in the World Crisis, Columbia Univer- 
sity Press. 


the production and enjoyment of symphonic music. Hence, the 
ultimate "source" of needs is not relevant except in so far as it 
affects the structure and orientation of social systems of action, 
especially by providing "foci" around which attitudes, symbols and 
action patterns cluster. 

A structure is a set of relatively stable patterned relationships of 
units. Since the unit of social system is the actor, social structure is 
a patterned system of the social relationships of actors. It is a dis- 
tinctive feature of the structure of systems of social action, how- 
ever, that in most relationships the actor does not participate as a 
total entity,^- but only by virtue of a given differentiated "sector" 
of his total action. Such a sector, which is the unit of a system of 
social relationships, has come predominantly to be called a "role."^^ 
Hence, the previous statement must be revised to say that social 
structure is a system of patterned relationships of actors in their 
capacity as playing roles relative to one another. Role is the con- 
cept which links the subsystem of the actor as a "psychological" 
behaving entity to the distinctively social structure. 

Two primary questions arise in following on beyond this point. 
First, what is the nature of this link, what is social structure from 
the point of view of the actor playing his roles within it? Second, 
what is the nature of the "system" of the patterned relationships of 
social structure? 

The clue to the first question is found in the normative-voluntaris- 
tic aspect of the structure of action. From the point of view of the 
social system, a role is an element of generalized patterning of the 
action of its component individuals. But this is not merely a matter 
of statistical "trend." It is a matter of goals and standards. From the 
point of view of the actor, his role is defined by the normative 
expectations of the members of the group as formulated in its social 
traditions. The existence of these expectations among his fellows 
constitutes an essential feature of the situation in which any given 
actor is placed. His conformity with them or lack of it brings con- 
sequences to him, the sanctions of approval and reward, or of con- 
demnation and punishment. But more than this, they constitute 
part of his own personality. In the course of process of socialization 
he absorbs— to a greater or less degree— the standards and ideals of 

1^ In the sense in which a given brick as a whole is or is not "part" of a 
given wall. 

13 This concept has been used above all by Ralph Linton in The Study of 
Man, (New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1936). See especially Chap. VIII. 


his group so that they become effective motivating forces in his 
own conduct, independently of external sanctions. 

From this point of view the essential aspect of social structure 
lies in a system of patterned expectations defining the proper be- 
havior of persons playing certain roles, enforced both by the incum- 
bents' own positive motives for conformity and by the sanctions of 
others. Such systems of patterned expectations, seen in the per- 
spective of their place in a total social system and sufficiently thor- 
oughly established in action to be taken for granted as legitimate, 
are conveniently called "institutions." The fundamental, structur- 
ally stable element of social systems then, which, according to the 
present argument, must play a crucial role in their theoretical anal- 
ysis, is their structure of institutional patterns defining the roles of 
their constituent actors. 

Seen from the functional point of view, institutionalized roles 
constitute the mechanism by which extremely varied potentialities 
of "human nature" become integrated in such a way as to dovetail 
into a single integrated system capable of meeting the situational 
exigencies with which the society and its members are faced. Rela- 
tive to these potentialities they have two primary functions: first, 
the selective one of bringing out those possibilities of behavior 
which "fit" the needs and the tolerances of the particular patterned 
structure and by-passing or repressing the others; secondly, through 
interactive mechanisms the maximum of motivational backing for 
action in conformity with the expectations of roles must be secured. 
Above all, both the disinterested motives associated with "con- 
science" and "ideals" and the self-interested ones must be mobilized 
in the interest of the same directions of behavior. 

The second main problem is that of the structure of institutions 
themselves as a system. They are resultants of and controlling fac- 
tors in the action of human beings in society. Hence, as a system 
they must at the same time be related to the functional needs of 
their actors as individuals and of the social systems they compose. 
Thus, the basic structural principle, as in the case of anatomy, is 
that of functional diflFerentiation. The functional reference, how- 
ever, is in the social case more complex since both functional needs 
of the actor and those of the social system are intertwined. 

Any scheme for analyzing such a functionally differentiated 
structure is necessarily complex and there is presumably no single 
"right" one. A basic three-fold scheme has, however, proved very 


useful and seems of highly generalized significance.^"* In the first 
place, tliere are "situational" institutions or patterns. These are 
cases of the organization of roles about aspects of the situation in 
which actors and social systems are placed. Leading examples are 
kinship roles, organized about the biological relatedness of individ- 
uals through descent, and in part at least, political institutions, 
organized about solidarity with respect to the use and suflFerance 
of force within a territorial area. 

The second class are "instrumental" institutions, patterned about 
the attainment of certain classes of goals as such. For example, a 
given technology like that of modern medicine is pursued within 
the framework of an institutionalized role, that of physician. 
Finally, third, there are "integrative" institutions, those primarily 
oriented to regulating the relations of individuals so as to avoid 
conflict or promote positive cooperation. Social stratification and 
authority are primary examples. 

Since relative valuation of personal qualities and achievements 
is inevitable in a system, it is, thus essential that these valuations be 
integrated in an ordered system of ranking, the system of stratifi- 
cation of a society. Similarly the potentialities of deviant behavior 
and the need for detailed coordination of the action of many peo- 
ple are, in any at all complex society, such that spontaneous response 
to unorganized controls cannot be relied upon. Some persons and 
organized agencies must be in a position within limits to repress 
deviance or its consequences or to ensure effective cooperation. 
Again, it is essential to the integration of a society that such control 
over others be institutionally ordered and regulated and constitute 
a system of roles of legitimate authority. This is an important factor 
in the effectiveness of the control since it makes possible appeal to 
a sense of moral obligation, and makes it possible to regulate 
authority which, if misused, has serious, disruptive potentialities. 

The importance of conceiving institutions as a functionally dif- 
ferentiated system lies in making it possible to place changes in 
any one part of it in the perspective of their interdependence in 
the system as a whole. In so far as the system is adequately for- 
mulated in generalized terms and is structurally complete, it ensures 
that explicit attention will be given to every major possibility of the 
repercussions of a change in different directions. 

14 See "Toward a Common Language for the Area of Social Science," Part 
II, mimeographed for rise by students in Harvard College (reprinted in the 
original edition of this volume. ) 


Dynamic analysis is not, however, possible in terms of the system- 
atic treatment of institutional structure alone. This involves the pos- 
sibility of generalized treatment of the behavioral tendencies of 
the human actors, in the situations in which they are placed and 
subject to the expectations of their institutionalized roles. In the 
most general terms such generalization depends on a theory of the 
"motivation" of human behavior. 

The ultimate foundations of such a theory must certainly be 
derived from the science of psychology. But both because the "idio- 
syncratic" element in the behavior and motivation of individuals is 
so great and because the levels of abstraction current in psychology 
have been what they have, it has not been possible, in general, to 
derive an adequate theory of the motivation of socially structured 
mass phenomena through the simple "application" of psychological 
generalizations. The relationship between the psychological level 
and behavior in social systems is complex, but light is thrown on it 
in terms of the psychological implications of the conception of role. 

This is above all true in two directions. The early tendency of 
psychology was to consider "personality" as largely an expression of 
genetic constitution or of unique idiosyncracy. Study of socialization 
in a comparative perspective is, however, demonstrating that there 
are important elements of uniformity in the "character structure" of 
those who have been socialized in the same cultural and institutional 
system, subject to variations according to different roles within the 
system. ^^ Though the limits of applicability of this conception of a 
character structure appropriate to a given role structure are as yet 
by no means clear, its general theoretical significance is established. 
In so far as it applies, the pattern of motivation to be used in 
explaining behavior in an institutionalized role is not derived 
directly from the "propensities of human nature," in general. It is 
a matter of such components organized into a particular structure. 
Such a structured personality type will have its own appropriate 
patterns of motivation and tendencies of behavior. 

The other principal direction of development is different. It con- 
cerns the area within which there is, in any given social system, a 
range of flexibility in behavior on a psychological level. Evidence, 
particularly from complex societies, points to the view that this 
range is relatively wide for large proportions of the population and 

15 See, for instance, Abram Kardiner, The Individual and His Society, (New 
York: Columbia University Press, 1939), and various recent writings of Mar- 
garet Mead. 


that the distribution of character types more or less successfully 
fulfilling the requirements of a given role also covers a wide range. 

The fundamental mechanism here is what may be called the 
"structural generalization of goals" and of other aspects of orien- 
tation. As W. I. Thomas puts it, one of the fundamental functions of 
institutions is to "define the situation"^*' for action. Once a situation 
is institutionally defined and the definition upheld by an adequately 
integrated system of sanctions, action in conformity with the relevant 
expectations tends, as pointed out, to mobilize a wide variety of 
motivational elements in its service. Thus, to take one of the most 
famous examples, the "profit motive," which has played such a 
prominent part in economic discussion, is not a category of psy- 
chology at all. The correct view is rather that a system of "free 
enterprise" in a money and market economy so defines the situation 
for the conducting or aspiring to the conduct of business enterprise, 
that they must seek profit as a condition of survival and as a 
measure of success of their activities. Hence, whatever interests the 
individual may have in achievement, self-respect, the admiration of 
others, etc., to say nothing of what money will buy, are channeled 
into profit-making activity.^'^ In a differently defined situation, the 
same fundamental motives would lead to a totally different kind of 

Thus, in analyzing the dynamic problems of a social system, it 
is not enough to apply "psychology" to the behavior of individuals 
in the relevant "objective" situations. It is necessary to qualify the 
interpretation of their "reactions" in terms of the evidence on at least 
two other problems— what can be known about a character struc- 
ture "typical" of that particular social system and particular roles 
within it, and what will be the effect of the structurally generalized 
goals and orientations resulting from the "definitions of the situ- 
ation" current in the society. 

But with due regard of this type of quaUfication, it remains true 
that the basic dynamic categories of social systems are "psycho- 

is See especially hi^ The Unadjusted Girl, (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 
1927), Introduction, ^/j •-'!' '• f-0* <-',-:,, / 

I'f See Talcott Parsons, "The Motivation of Economic Activity," Canadian 
Journal of Economics and Political Science, 6: 187-203, May, 1940. For a fur- 
ther analysis of the relation of role-structure to the dynamics of motivation see 
Talcott Parsons, "Propaganda and Social Control," Psychiatry, 5: 551-572, 
November, 1942. Both are reprinted in the present volume. 

J'^See B. Malinowski, Coral Gardens and their Magic, (London: G. Allen 
and Unwin, 1935), vol. I, Chap. I, Sec. 9. 


logical." The relation of psychology to the theory of social systems 
appears to be closely analogous to that of biochemistry to general 
physiology. Just as tlie organism is not a category of general chem- 
istry, so social system is not one of psychology. But within the 
framework of the physiological conception of what a functioning 
organism is, the processes are chemical in nature. Similarly, the 
process of social behavior as of any other are psychological. But 
without the meaning given them by their institutional-structural 
context they lose their relevance to the understanding of social 

However sketchy and inadequate the above outline may be, it 
may be hoped that it does give an idea of the main character of the 
emerging structural-functional theory of social systems. It remains to 
raise the question of what aspect of that theory may be considered 
specifically sociological. 

It is of course possible to consider sociological theory as con- 
cerned with the total theory of social systems in general. It seems, 
however, undesirable to do this since it would make of sociology 
such an extremely comprehensive discipline, including as it would 
have to, for instance, both the major part of psychology and all of 
economic theory." The most important alternative is to treat soci- 
ology as the science of institutions in the above sense or more 
specifically of institutional structure. This would, as here conceived, 
by no means limit it to purely static structural analysis but could 
retain a definite focus on problems of structure, including struc- 
tural change. Dynamic, particularly psychological, problems would 
enter into sociology in terms of their specific relevance to this 

This view leaves room for a clear distinction from psychology as 
the general science of human personality structure and motivation. 
It is quite clear that many of the concrete problems of psychology 
in this sense are not sociological at all. For example, sociological 
considerations would be secondary and peripheral in the whole 
field of clinical psychology. The two sciences are, however, neces- 
sarily closely interdependent and data concerning the role structure 
of the social system are at least implicity involved in practically all 

19 This is in slightly modified form essentially tlie view put forth in The Struc- 
ture of Social Action, Chap. XIX. Institutions are those elements of the struc- 
ture of social systems which most distinctively embody the patterns of "common 
value integration" of a system of action. 


concrete psychology problems. This, however, is not an unusual 
situation in the relationship of different sciences. 

This view also makes it possible to distinguish sociology from 
economic theory. Economic theory is concerned with certain dis- 
tinctive dynamic processes which go on within social systems. A 
situation where it is relevant in more than the broadest respects is 
confined to certain distinctive types of social systems, notably those 
where there is an important degree of primary orientation to con- 
siderations of optimum utilization of resources and of cost. Such a 
situation presupposes in the first place a distinctive institutional 
structure. In the second place, as a consequence of this, it presup- 
poses the organization of motives about certain types of structurally 
generalized goals. But, given these conditions, the distinctive 
dynamic consequences of economically oriented action must be 
analyzed in terms of a specific technical conceptual scheme. As 
Pareto and many others have been well aware, this scheme is 
highly abstract and the larger aspects of the dynamics of total 
economic systems will inevitably involve interdependence with 
non-economic variables. 

In some respects analogous to the distinctive features of a mar- 
ket or price economy is the emergence in complex social systems of 
certain prominent functionally differentiated structures. Perhaps the 
most important of these is that of government. It is always possible 
to make a study of such structures and the relevant social processes 
the subject of a relatively independent science. So far, however, in 
none of these cases has a distinctive analytical scheme appeared 
which would give that science a theoretical status analogous to 
that, for instance, of economics. Thus, it is highly questionable 
whether "political theory" in a scientific rather tlian an ethical and 
normative sense should be regarded as a fundamental element of 
the theory of social systems. It seems more logical to regard it as a 
field of application of the general theory of social institutions but 
one which is sufficiently differentiated to be treated as an independ- 
ent discipline for many purposes. The same general considerations 
apply to other aspects of structural differentiation, such as, for ex- 
ample, that of religion. 

Finally, there is a question as to whether anthropology should 
be considered in a theoretical sense an independent science. As the 
study of non-literate societies, it is of course a pragmatic field of spe- 
cialization of considerable significance, in some ways analogous to 


the field of government. In so far, however, as its theoretical concern 
is with the study of social systems as such, there seems to be no 
reason to regard social anthropology as a distinctive theoretical dis- 
cipline. In the relevant respects, it must be regarded as a branch of 
sociology, and in its other aspects, of economics, government and so 
on. There is, however, one problem, analysis of which might modify 
this view. To many of its proponents, the distinctive feature of 
anthropology is that it is the science of culture, not of social 
systems. It is implicit in the above analysis that culture, though em- 
pirically fundamental to social systems and in one sense a compo- 
nent of them, is not in the theoretical sense exclusively a social 
phenomenon. It has been pointed out above that the study of the 
structure of cultural patterns as such and of their structural inter- 
dependence is a legitimate abstraction from the concrete phenom- 
ena of human behavior and its material consequences, which is 
quite different from their study in the context of interdependence in 
a social system. It is perfectly clear that this study is not equivalent 
to the study of institutions as aspects of a social system. If the focus 
of theoretical interest of anthropology is to develop in this direction, 
two important consequences would seem to follow. First, it is quite 
clear that its traditional primary concern with non-literate peoples 
cannot be upheld. The culture of non-literate peoples is neither 
more nor less a subject for the differentiation of a science than is 
their institutional structure. Secondly, it is particularly important to 
clarify the generalized relationship between culture and social 
structure. A great deal of confusion appears to be prevalent on this 
point among both sociologists and cultural anthropologists. 


The Problem of Controlled 
Institutional Change 

THE MEMBERS OF the Conference reached definite agreement on the 
important conclusion that the sources of German aggressive expan- 
sionism are not merely a matter of the particular recent situation in 
which the German nation has been placed, or of the character and 
policies of a particular regime which can be expected to vanish 
with the fall of the regime. Although drawn out and accentuated by 
these factors, the more important sources lie deeper and would not 
necessarily be seriously affected by chances at these levels. 

The principal emphasis of the Conference was on the existence 
of a typical German character structure which predisposes people 
to define all human relations in terms of dominance, submission, 
and romantic revolt. It was, however, also agreed that such a 
typical character structure, although probably an independent fac- 
tor^ of great significance, is supported by, and closely interdepend- 
ent with, an institutional structure of German society. The inter- 
dependence is such that on the one hand any permanent and 
far-reaching change in the orientation of the German people prob- 
ably cannot rest on a change of character structure alone, but must 
also involve institutional change; otherwise, institutional conditions 
would continue to breed the same type of character structure in 
new generations. On the other hand, it may prove that a direct 
attack on character structure as such is less promising than one 
through other forces that operate on the institutional system and 
which, through changes in that, may serve to create conditions 
favorable to a change in character structure. 

1 Exactly how far it is an independent factor is exceedingly difficult to 
judge since only actual imifonnities of behavior are available as direct evidence. 
Hence, for certain purposes character structure and institutional structure may 
be treated as different abstractions from the same facts. Even so far as they 
are actually independent i^ermanent change of character structure is dependent 
upon institutional change. 


Analytical Introduction 
Institutions in the Social System 

The institutional structure of a society must be regarded as a spe- 
cial aspect of the total social system. Especially for purposes of con- 
sidering the possibilities of dynamic change in institutions it is 
essential to treat them systematically and explicitly in terms of their 
interdependence with the other principal elements of the system. 

Institutions are those patterns which define the essentials of the 
legitimately expected behavior of persons insofar as they perform 
structurally important roles in the social system. There are, o£ 
course, many degrees of conformity or lack of it, but a pattern is 
"institutionalized" only insofar as at least a minimum degree of con- 
formity is legitimately expected— thus its absence treated with 
sanctions at least of strong disapproval— and a suflBcient degree of 
conformity on the part of a sufficient proportion of the relevant 
population exists so that this pattern defines the dominant struc- 
tural outline of the relevant system of concrete social relationships. 
It is the structurally significant elements of the total concrete rela- 
tionship pattern which are institutionally relevant. What these are 
cannot be decided in terms of the subjective sentiments of partici- 
pant observers but only in the perspective of structural analysis of 
the social system. 

Institutional patterns are the "backbone" of the social system. But 
they are by no means absolutely rigid entities and certainly have 
no mysteriously "substantial" nature. They are only relatively stable 
uniform resultants of the processes of behavior of the members of 
the society, and hence of the forces which determine that behavior. 
Their relative stability results from the particular structure of inter- 
dependence of those forces, and institutional structure is subject to 
change as a function of any one of many different kinds of change 
in the underlying system of forces. Their relatively stable role in 
social systems, however, indicates that institutionalized patterns do 
in fact mobilize a combination of forces in support of their mainte- 
nance which is of primary significance in the total equilibrium of a 
social system. Analysis of the nature and principal components of 
this combination is the first requisite of an approach to the prob- 
lem of institutional change. 

Furthermore, institutionalization is a general phenomenon of all 
extensive and permanent social systems. Hence, the broad outHne 


of the problem concerns elements which are universal to all societies 
and does not depend upon specialized knowledge of the particular 
society in question. A general analysis of the problem can be pre- 
sented first- and then applied to the particular facts and circum- 
stances of the case. 

The uniformities of human behavior must be analyzed in terms 
of the structure of motivational forces on the one hand, and of the 
situation in which they have to operate, on the other. In looking for 
the structure of forces underlying institutions, it is important to 
keep in mind that both elements of the determination of human be- 
havior are involved in a peculiar kind of interdependence. For in 
social relationships it is the expected and actual behavior and 
manifestation of the sentiments of others which is the most impor- 
tant component of the situation in which any one person acts. 
Hence, to a very large extent, the structure of the situation is de- 
pendent on the stability of the motivational structure of the mem- 
bers of the society at large. So long as a stable structure is main- 
tained this accounts for the interlocking of so many motivational 
elements in support of the same goals and standards. It above all 
accounts for the cardinal fact of institutional behavior, that in an 
integrated system "self-interested" elements of motivation and dis- 
interested moral sentiments of duty tend to motivate the same con- 
crete goals. 

Such an interlocking is, however, never complete. There are im- 
portant elements of the situation of action of different classes of 
persons which are not primarily dependent on the crystallized senti- 
ments of others. Conversely, there are unstable elements in the 
motivation structure of persons. It is at these two points that the 
principal openings for institutional change are to be sought. It is a 
further implication of the general character of institutions that the 
consequences of changes at these points may be more important 
than would appear at first sight because any change at these pomts 
will interact with the other elements of the system and may well 
set up cumulative tendencies to change. 

Before exploring these possibilities further, however, it is neces- 
sary to develop a somewhat clearer picture of the main elements of 
stability in an institutional system. It is these which have to be 
modified to achieve fundamental changes. 

2 This analysis is of course generalized from the study of many empirical 
cases— not simply deduced from general considerations. 


Factors of Rigidity: "Vested Interests" 

It is inherent in the nature of an institutional system that it should 
create, and is in part supported by, a complex system of vested in- 
terests. Even on occasion in conflict with very deep-rooted moral 
sentiments, people will often be powerfully motivated by consider- 
ations of interest. There is no question of the importance of inter- 
ests but only of the perspective in which they are seen in the total 
social system and of the nature of the structure of motivational ele- 
ments referred to as an interest. 

Among "interests" in general those which may be called "vested" 
are distinguished by the fact that they are oriented to the mainte- 
nance of objects of interest which have already become established. 
This means that to a greater or less degree the status and situations 
and their perquisites to which such interests are attached already 
involve some element of legitimacy or claim to it. To attempt to 
deprive a person or a group of something in which they enjoy a 
vested interest thus involves not only imposing the frustrations at- 
tendant to the deprivation as such but also to a greater or less 
degree outrages the moral sentiments surrounding the claim of 
legitimacy. The resistance of the people or groups affected is thus 
strengthened by their sense of injustice. Furthermore, the same fact 
enables them to rally support for their claims from people who do 
not share the same interests. The obverse of this, finally, is the fact 
that among those who oppose a vested-interest group there is likely 
to be an element of sense of guilt arising from the fact that they 
share the same patterns of value. This introduces an element of 
ambivalence which in an important sense weakens the position of 
the attacker. If the guilt is repressed, however, it may make the 
actual attack more extreme than it would otherwise have been. But 
in such cases the attacker may be highly vulnerable to the proper 
kind of attempt to change his attitudes. 

The structure of interests in a group is a function both of the 
structure of the realistic situations in which people act and of the 
"definitions" of those situations which are institutionalized in tlie 
society. It is this latter fundamental aspect which is most likely to be 
misunderstood in common sense thinking, since one is prone to 
assume that what people want to "get out of" a realistic situation, 
or avoid in it, is universal, a matter of "liuman nature." The actual 
tendency is to project one's own definitions of situations onto the 


action of other people and societies. An actor thinks of what he 
would want in such a situation. 

The consequence of the role of institutionalized definitions of 
situations in the structuring of interests is at some points to intro- 
duce elements of rigidity, which would not otherwise exist, of flex- 
ibility at others. In the first case it delays or altogether blocks what 
might otherwise be felt to be a "natural" reaction to a change in 
the realistic situation.^ It is, therefore, never safe to count on the 
efiFect of changing a situation on the structure of interests without 
specifically investigating the definitions of situations within the 
groups involved. 

The efi^ect of a change in the realistic situation while an institu- 
tionalized definition remains unchanged is to create a strain. The 
line of least resistance in reaction to this stiain will usually be to 
attempt more aggressively than before to reassert the old definition 
of the situation and to shape the realistic situation in conformity 
with it. This total reaction involving above all the appropriate emo- 
tional components is what is generally meant by talking about the 
behavior of "the vested interests." For constructive change to take 
place it is therefore not only necessary to provide realistic opportu- 
nities which can be utilized to satisfy the interests of groups. It is 
also necessary to have some mechanism for coping with these other 
aspects of the problem. Two things are above all important. First, 
to provide new alternative definitions of the situation which give 
the new realistic opportunities positive meaning. It is particularly 
important that these should not be too far removed from the sym- 
bols and prestige standards previously current. Secondly, the emo- 
tionally aggressive defensiveness must be dealt with. This is to a 
large extent a reaction to a sense of insecurity, and requires some 
kind of measures of reassurance. 

Of course, there are occasions where it is not possible to redefine 

the situation so that an interest group will fit into a new situation. 

Then its compulsory repression is the only way. But here, besides 

the question of adequate means of compulsion, a most important 

consideration is that of the moral position of the compelling agent. 

For the moral sentiments which legitimize an interest are shared by, 

3 A dramatic example is the "suicidal mania" of Japanese soldiers. To the 
Occidental a hopeless situation where no further contribution to the cause is 
possible is an occasion for honorable surrender. To most Japanese, apparently, 
surrender under any circumstances is an intolerable disgrace. This is a matter of 
differences in the definition of the situation, not of the realistic situations them- 


and shade into, those of other groups. For the long run effect the 
moral isolation and insulation of a group which has to be frustrated 
is at least as important as the physical capacity to carry it through. 

The converse of this difficulty lies in the fact that rational adap- 
tation to realistic situations is a fundamental component of human 
social behavior. Hence, change of situation plus sheer cognitive 
enlightenment about its possibilities can often effect important 
changes. It must, however, to exploit this possibility, operate so as 
to avoid too serious conflict with the forces just discussed. Above 
all the change must be such as not to be interpreted— psychologi- 
cally, not intellectually alone— as threatening security in those things 
in which members of the group have important emotional investment. 

The phenomenon of vested interests thus proves to be a special 
case of the general integration of diverse motivational forces about 
an institutional structure. It is exceedingly difficult to say that the 
elements of self-interest are the decisive factors in most cases. It is 
the mutual reenforcement of the different elements which is the 
principal source of rigidity— interest taken alone is probably one of 
the factors most accessible to change. 

A particularly important class of cases of this mutual reenforce- 
ment is that where group solidarities are involved. In a functionally 
differentiated society like that of the modern Occident, in perhaps a 
majority of groups solidarity is secondary to the functional signifi- 
cance of the roles of the members. But even here, sentiments of 
solidarity readily acquire a prominent place. Insofar as this happens 
the security of their members becomes associated with the status of 
the group as such, rather than fulfillment of the functional norms 
which ideally govern its role; and sanctions come to be applied to 
what is interpreted as loyalty to the group rather than functionally 
adequate achievement. Once such patterns of group solidarity are 
firmly established a serious obstacle to change is introduced. Ap- 
peals to a group in terms of functional values may be ineffective 
unless they can also carry the sentiments of group solidarity with 
them. Such sentiments are particularly difficult to deal with when 
the members of the group feel insecure,^ because this creates a 
"defensive" attitude system. 

^ Guilt may be an important element in this insecurity. Wliere people are 
really uneasy about the moral justification of their position, they may defend it 
with all the emotional intensity of fanaticism. In this case the "ethics" of group 
loyalty is often used to rationalize away the deeper moral conflict. 


The concept of "vested interest" thus serves as a key to the prob- 
lem of rigidity in an institutional system because it is the most con- 
spicuous pattern of behavior which appears in particular groups in 
resistance to change or tlireats of it. As such, however, it apphes to 
particular groups. It is a mode of focusing all the principal compo- 
nents of motivation on such resistance. But any one group is struc- 
turally interdependent with others in the same social system. More- 
over, the same persons play a variety of different roles as members 
of different groups. 

It is a cardinal fact of social change that it impinges unevenly on 
the different parts of the society it affects. It alters the status and 
role of some groups but not directly of others. Or it may alter the 
situation or definition of it of the members of a group in one of their 
roles— for example, occupational; but not directly in another— for 
example, kinship. But it is in the nature of this structural interde- 
pendence of groups and roles in a social system that alteration in 
any one will set up waves of repercussion in many others. The dif- 
ferent structural elements of a social system are "geared in" to one 
another. The factors of stability or rigidity just discussed are present 
in each one. Change at one point sets up a strain in neighboring 
parts of the system. One fundamental and immediate possibility of 
reaction to the strain is the vested-interest reaction— to activate an 
emotionally defensive resistance to the change. After the problem of 
overcoming this pattern of reaction at the points where the forces 
of change impinge most immediately on the system itself, the next 
problem is that of preventing the development of this barrier to its 
structurally necessary repercussions beyond these points. 

This is a basically important consideration since if the defensive 
reaction becomes sufficiently firmly consolidated, one of two things 
must happen. Either the reaction will be so powerful as to eliminate 
the change and, if not restore the previous balance, lead to a quite 
different direction of change. Or, short of this, there will be a per- 
manent state of malintegration and tension which will prevent 
stable institutionalization of the new patterns even within their 
primary area of application. Not only will there be elements of 
group conflict but, perhaps even more important, a large number 
of persons will be caught in a pattern of conflicting pressures and 
ambivalent attitudes as "marginal men." For the patterns dominant 
in one set of roles a person plays will conflict more or less seriously 
with those in others. The resulting situation of insecurity for many 


produces a high degree of instability of overt attitudes and be- 

An example of fundamental significance in modern Western so- 
ciety is the tension between occupational and family roles. The 
occupational system has, through the inherently dynamic character 
of modern technology and of the development of large-scale organ- 
ization, been a focus of continual change, profoundly altering the 
pattern of the occupational role. On the whole the forces for change 
operating directly on the family have not been so strong and have 
been of a different, largely an ideological, character. Hence, the 
defensive reaction pattern has been particularly strong in the fam- 
ily and in those agencies which, like the churches, have assumed 
the role of guardians of the integrity of its traditional patterns. As 
so often happens, only a very vague insight into the real sources of 
the changes has existed, so the hostility generated has largely been 
discharged upon scapegoats, prominent among which has been the 
"younger generation." 

Two further features of the "psychological" structure of social 
systems are of very general significance for the present discussion. 
First, psychologists have strongly emphasized the importance of 
emotional attitudes toward those objects which impinge directly 
upon the everyday emotional life of a person, particularly those 
concrete persons with whom he is placed in immediate contacts: 
his own parents, siblings, spouse, or "boss." It is readily understand- 
able that he should have strong and often complicated emotional 
feehngs toward them. But it is also true that people have very 
strong feelings about objects, patterns, and symbols which are rela- 
tively remote from their personal experiences and interests. Indeed, 
for most of a population most of the time the majority of those 
objects which are essential to the structuring and behavior of large- 
scale social units are in this category. Thus, in time of peace a po- 
tential national enemy, the ideal of equality of opportunity or the 
flag can arouse very powerful reactions. Of course, reflection and 
analysis shows that even people's immediate interests are in fact de- 
pendent on these things and what they symbolize. But the intel- 
lectual complexity of the relation is too great for it to account 
adequately for the emotional reaction. This must depend on non- 
rational mechanisms to an even higher degree than reactions to 
immediate objects. The nature of these mechanisms is a problem 
of great importance. 


It is clear that the connection may be relatively loose between 
these two basic levels and tliat attitudes toward the remoter objects 
may be subject to change by psychological techniques which would 
not operate successfully to change a man's attitude toward his 
mother or his "boss." It is essential to keep this in mind in discus- 
sing problems of ideology, political attitudes and the like. 

The second important fact is that the conception of a completely 
integrated social system is a limiting case. Every at all complex 
society contains very important elements of internal conflict and 
tension. In some respects this is an impediment to change since 
patterns of defensive vested-interest behavior already exist in im- 
portant cases as responses to conflict with other internal elements. 
But it also almost certainly means that there are "allies" within the 
social system itself which can be enlisted on the side of change in 
any given direction. 

In particular, Germany is not, relatively to the rest of the Western 
world, a completely "sealed off" unique society. Many of its most 
important culture patterns and structural elements shade imper- 
ceptibly into those on the democratic side of the confhct. They are 
genuinely institutionalized in Germany or have been very incom- 
pletely eradicated under the Nazi regime. They constitute funda- 
mentally important avenues of approach to change in the other, the 
conflicting elements. 

This lack of full integration has a further consequence: it means 
that the underlying institutional foundations of national behavior 
are not as firm as they would be in a better integrated system. In- 
deed, one factor in the violence of these manifestations in the case 
of Germany lies in the conflict; part of the energy has the function 
of repressing the sentiments and patterns opposed to the recent 
course. The expectation may then be that not too radical an altera- 
tion in the balance of forces could have "disproportionately" great 
effects on immediate behavior. This is, indeed, what happened in 
the shift from Weimar to the Nazi regime. The Germany of Weimar 
was not spurious— a "deceitful mask" as many are now inclined to 
feel. That would be as serious an error as the previous one of sup- 
posing that it was the one "true Germany" once the "bad" monarchy 
had been eliminated. 

But of course merely shifting the balance till the scale tips is not 
a radical cure— it would take too little to shift it back again. But it 
can be an early phase of a farther-reaching process— the obverse of 
what the Nazi regime has hoped it was accomplishing. 


Channels of Influence 

To recall a previous starting point: human behavior may be influ- 
enced either through the situations in which people must act, or 
through "subjective" elements— their sentiments, goals, attitudes, 
definitions of situations. Tliis classification may serve for orinetation 
to the analysis of the elements of flexibility, hence possible openings 
for control, of a social system. 

The first must be differentiated according to whether it is the 
situation external to the social system as a whole, which is inde- 
pendent of its internal institutional structure, or the immediate 
situations in which large classes of people act— of which institu- 
tional patterns themselves constitute a crucial element— which is to 
be deliberately controlled. In the latter case only certain elements 
of situations are subject to control as a means of bringing about 
institutional change; others must be a result of it. 

A second essential discrimination is between using control of the 
situation to suppress a structural element or manifestation, and 
using it to alter it by making available new channels of expression 
for the same basic sentiments and goals— so that the sense of conti- 
nuity need not be lost. 

Turning to the subjective side, it is possible to attempt through 
"education" and "propaganda" to affect mass sentiments through 
influencing various of their manifestations. The phenomena in this 
field are exceedingly complex and in an elementary stage of analysis. 
The most important thing to be said is that the chances of success- 
ful influence do not depend mainly on the apparent "reasonable- 
ness" of what is transmitted but on its relation to the functional 
equilibrium of the system on which it impinges. This in turn 
depends on at least three factors: the functional significance of the 
manffestations it attempts to displace, the potential functions of the 
new patterns which are put forward, and the appropriateness of 
the source and manner of influence, that is, the definition of the situ- 
ation of 'laeing influenced" from the point of view of the recipients. 

Again it is important to discriminate sentiments and their mani- 
festations touching remoter objects concerning the society at large, 
from those touching the immediate interests of its members. 

Just as actual situations deviate from institutionally sanctioned 
definitions of the same situations, so ideological and symbolic pat- 
terns associated with the sentiment system do not stand in a simple 
relation of correspondence with the sentiments manifested. Ideo- 
logical patterns are inevitably highly selective if not distorted rela- 


tive to the system of sentiments which support institutions. These 
and other patterns often involve psychological reactions to strain 
and thus contain elements of prejection and displacement on "cul- 
ture heroes" or scapegoats. Finally, symbolism plays a very prom- 
inent part in this field. 

These considerations, combined with the others already discussed, 
show that it is not to be expected that the "logical" consequences of 
ideas will be automatically "acted out." What will happen is rather 
the resultant of the interaction of verbal patterns with a variety of 
other elements in the total social system. 

The Case of Germany 
The Problem: Objectives of a Program 

The members of the Conference agreed that the dominant char- 
acter structure of modern Germany had been distinguished by a 
striking dualism between "A: an emotional, idealistic, active, ro- 
mantic component which may be constructive or destructive and 
anti-social," and "B : an orderly, hard-working hierarchy preoccupied, 
methodical, submissive, gregarious, materialistic" component.^ 

In the traditional pre-Nazi German society it is overwhelmingly 
the B component which has become institutionalized. The A com- 
ponent arises from two principal interdependent sources: certain 
features of the socialization process in the German family, and the 
tensions arising from life in that type of institutional order. It is 
expressed in romantic, unrealistic emotionalism and yearnings. 
Under other circumstances the dissociation has historically been 
radical— the romantic yearning has found an outlet in religion, art, 
music and other-worldly, particularly a-political, forms. 

The peculiarity of the Nazi movement is that it has harnessed this 
romantic dynamism to an aggressive, expansionist, nationalistic 
political goal— and an internal revolution— and has utilized and 
subordinated all the motives behind the B component as well. In 
both cases the synthesis has been dependent at the same time on 
certain features of the situation and on a meaningful definition of 
the situation and system of symbols. The first task of a program of 
institutional change is to disrupt this synthesis and create a situ- 
ation in which the romantic element will again find an a-political 

° Quoted from Report of the Conference, Appendix 3, p. 10. Compare 
Erikson, Erik Homburger, "Hitler's Imagery and German Youth," Psychiatry 
(1942) 5:475-493. 


form of expression. This will not, however, "cure" the basic difficulty 
tut only its most virulent and, to the United Nations, dangerous 
manifestation. Its importance, however, should not be underesti- 
mated. This may be referred to as a semi-institutionalized feature 
of the German system. 

The second problematical set of features of the German institu- 
tional system comprises certain traits associated with the B compo- 
nents of her character structure." Orderliness, industry, and me- 
thodicality are not "trouble-making" traits if they are stable. Even, 
these, however, are skewed by their relation to the dominance- 
submission element which finds its institutional counterpart in a 
rigidly hierarchical status system where the superiority-inferiority 
aspect of roles tends to be emphasized to the exclusion of their 
positive functional significance, and in a peculiar prominence of 
relations of authority. 

A second conspicuous general trait of German institutions is their 
"formalism." In part this serves to emphasize status and authority 
as such. But there is also what to Americans seems a peculiar kind 
of dissociation between the status system and the "inner" emotional 
interests and character of persons. This is both a determinant and 
a consequence of the dualism of German character. Goals within 
the status system fail to satisfy the romantic longings of component 
A as previously defined. Germans are much more preoccupied with 
status than Americans, but there has been little romantization of 
success in Germany. Americans are prone to romanticize attainment 
within the institutionalized status system; while Germans have a 
greater romantic interest in goals outside it. 

Both these traits permeate the whole role and group structure of 
German society. But their special incidence varies in the difiFerent 
parts of the social structure. The Prussian state has remained the 
center of both these patterns. For, long before industrialization, in 
its civil service it developed a highly formalized hierarchical and 
authoritarian structure which, with the waning of feudalism, came 
to hold a position of high prestige in the society. Much the same 
was true of the other main structure, the military establishment, 
which shared the same traits but in the officers' corps with even 
greater emphasis on a prestige status and with this, a highly favor- 
able situation for the dominance of "militaristic" values. 

♦> For a somewhat fuller analysis of these institutional traits than space al- 
lows here, see Parsons, Talcott, "Democracy and Social Structure in Pre-Nazi 
Germany," /. Legal and Political Social., Nov. 1942, reprinted above. 


Another important pre-industrial component of the German in- 
stitutional system was tlie "conservative" structure of the peasantiy 
and the older artisan and middle-class groups. Above all, these 
lower groups could readily integrate their status in the occupational 
system with a patriarchal-authoritarian family structure. For the 
most part the significant occupational unit was a family, not an 
individual person as such. The father was, as a peasant, for instance, 
the actual head of a producing organization in which his familial 
and productive roles coincided. 

The third fundamental aspect of German society is a structural 
tension which in a very broad sense may be described as that be- 
tween the firmly institutionalized patterns of this older pre-indus- 
trial structure and the structure of situations and— in part— senti- 
ments resulting from tlie impact of modern industrialism and its 
principal social accompaniments, notably large-scale urbanization. 
It is a case of partial integration and partial conflict. Industrialism 
would never have had the spectacular development which, by 
contrast with all the Latin countries, it had in Germany unless the 
previous institutional structure had been favorable to it. But in 
part the result was an industrial system with a different emphasis 
from tliat in the United States. The state has played a much more 
prominent role. Within industry itself there has been more emphasis 
on hierarchy, authority, formalism, status-consciousness. 

But at the same time there has been very serious tension. One 
point of tension is between the status system and the patterns of 
individual, technical achievement. The enormous German sensi- 
tivity to "proletarization" has something to do with the definition of 
all but the highest statuses in organization as involving subordina- 
tion and limitation to a strictly formal definition of role. Another 
most important consequence is the change in the kinship situation. 
Where the role of father and head of a small economic unit were 
combined they reenforced each other. But where a man is an au- 
thoritarian father in the family, but a subordinate whose subor- 
dination is continually symbolically rubbed in outside, it creates a 
serious ambivalence in his own attitudes and in his significance to 
his wife and children. The result has been to break down a rela- 
tively well integrated patriarchal pattern. 

The result of this major internal tension was to arouse intensely 
defensive vested-interest behavior on the part of the groups most 
closely identified with these conservative patterns and to introduce 


a very large element of insecurity into the lives of large numbers 
who were torn between conflicting patterns. This situation played 
a large part in the instability of the Weimar regime and accounted 
for much of the susceptibility of large elements of the population 
to the appeal of Nazi propaganda. 

The problem of control of German institutional structure may be 
put, therefore, in terms of the following three major objectives: 

To eliminate the specific Nazi synthesis of the two major 
components of German character, or to divert it from its 
recent distinctive channels of expression if this is possible. 

To eliminate, or at least seriously reduce, the structural role 
of the hierarchical, authoritarian and formalistic elements in 
the "conservative" German institutional structure— in particu- 
lar its focus on the army and the military class should be 

To displace the conservative pattern and to reduce the 
tension by systematically fostering those elements of the pat- 
tern of modern Germany, especially of industrialism, which 
are closest to theii* counterparts in the democratic countries. 

Representative Control of the Situation 
It is clear that the first task, now nearing completion, is to break 
down the German military effort against the United Nations. Victory 
for the United Nations can, in combination with other things, have 
a profound eflfect on the internal institutional structure of Germany 
as well as on its immediate power to make war. This is particularly 
true since the Nazi movement, as an anti-traditional "charismatic" 
movement, is peculiarly dependent on success to maintain its in- 
ternal prestige. It is irrevocably committed to success in this war 
and can scarcely survive a really thorough defeat. Defeat should, 
if properly managed, not only realistically disrupt the Nazi organi- 
zation but be the most important factor in permanently eliminating 
the "Hitler myth" as the primary focus of the romantic elements in 
German national psychology. For this to happen it is, however, 
essential that the moral prestige of the victorious powers in Ger- 
many should be maintained. The German propaganda line will 
surely be that it is an "unfair" victory of material force alone. How- 
ever stern tiie victors should be, they should never lose sight of the 
importance of getting across a sense of the justice of their cause- 
not of impulsive and arbitrary revenge. 

The logical "follow-up" of military victory is to place Germany in 
a position where it is quite clear that a repetition of her aggression 


will not be tolerated and cannot be successful. There are many 
possible ways in which this objective can be achieved. There is no 
point in trying to decide between them; it is necessary only to indi- 
cate that once chosen, they should fulfill three principal conditions : 

The control must be effective. To the German type of men- 
tality the idea that objectively it is possible to "get away" 
with a repetition of aggressive aggrandizement is a direct 
invitation to attempt it. The security system must be strong. 
This means above all solidarity among those responsible for 
its enforcement. 

It must be such as to maintain the moral position of those 
who impose it. It is not necessary to be bound by Nazi ideol- 
ogists' definitions of German rights nor to avoid all just pun- 
ishment for past derelictions of duty to the community of na- 
tions—but the attendant severity must not be such as to be 
construed, in the long run, as dictated simply by the victors' 
self-interest or revenge— using main force to hold Germany 
down. The Germans must be given "a chance" to play a role 
of honor and dignity in the world. 

It must not be such as to interfere with any of the other 
vital measures to be proposed in following paragraphs. This 
applies above all to the widely current proposals for de- 
industrialization of Germany which, while depriving her im- 
mediately of the power to make war, would almost certainly 
confirm the patterns which it is desirable should be changed. 
Much the same objections apply to most of the proposals for 
partition of Germany which would be very likely to arouse 
an irredentist nationalism such as dominated the early nine- 
teenth century there, only more intense. 

The effect of these measures should be to eliminate the Nazi 
synthesis and perhaps accomplish even more. But to accomplish this 
permanently, it is necessary to think well beyond the problem of 
German military power as such, toward coping with the psycho- 
logical repercussions of its collapse. It is here that the combination 
of effective firmness with a strong moral position is so crucial, as is 
also non-interference with other measures. 

The Nazi pattern of aggrandizement is an extreme manifestation 
of a more general German tendency to be fascinated with power. 
The flourishing of this tendency is in part dependent on the German 
nation functioning as a unit of power in a system of competitive 
politico-military power relationships, where the definition of success 
consists in achieving a position of ascendancy over its competitors. 
The fundamental remedy for such a situation is to so define the 


situation that the international order is a cooperative order and 
Germany is not primarily a competitive unit. The moral foundations 
for such a definition exist but have been overlaid by the competitive 
power pattern. They must be brought again to the fore. 

Successful fulfillment of the conditions just enumerated would 
force the romantic element into a-political channels, or into internal 
revolution.' By thoroughly discrediting certain crucial elements of 
the conservative structure— which are already vulnerable because of 
having "played ball" with the Nazis— it can go farther to facilitate 
the weakening of this deeper stratum of German institutions. This 
is particularly true of the military class and tradition. 

In the internal structure of Germany the two obvious cases for 
compulsory suppression are the Nazi party and all its subsidiary 
organizations and the Junker class. The greater the extent to which 
both these measures are accomplished by spontaneous internal 
German movements or agencies, the better, for the principal danger 
to be avoided is the saddling of the victorious foreigner with respon- 
sibility for destroying "legitimate" German institutions. The col- 
lapse of the Party should be an almost automatic consequence of 
thorough military defeat. Allied Military Government will simply 
have to step into the resulting organizational vacuum. 

The case of the Junker class is more difficult because of its deeper- 
seated status of legitimacy. First, however, it is important that it has 
been considerably weakened during the events of recent years. The 
further the Party- Army conflict goes in this direction before final col- 
lapse the better. The considerable element which has been closely 
identified with Nazism should be a victim of the collapse of the 
Party while another is destroyed in conflict with it. 

It may well be that the bulk of what is left will be adequately 
cared for by Russian occupation of Northeastern Germany. Since 
the Soviets have not the same tradition of respect for established 
property rights as Americans, the moral dilemma for them of direct 
expropriation of Junker estates would not be nearly so serious. 

Should this combination of factors prove insufficient, it is prob- 
ably best to attack the Junkers at their most vulnerable point— their 
economic basis. Their system of estates has notoriously long rested 
on an unsound economic basis and could be maintained even in 
Weimar times only by an elaborate system of agricultural tariffs and 

7 This is a case of attitudes toward a "remote" object which, because of 
their loose connection with the experience of persons, can be relatively easily 
transferred to another object. 


subsidies. These should be swept away and "nature" allowed to 
take its course. 

The main point is to destroy the principal symbolic focus of the 
historic military tradition in Germany, This is vulnerable because it 
is out of keeping witii "modern" patterns and structures— it can 
above all be attacked as a case of exclusive class privilege. But it is 
essential to avoid the boomerang efiFect of the sufferings of the 
Junkers being defined as the symbol of the "unfair persecution" of 

There are two other structural elements of conservative Germany 
which raise serious problems because of their previous association 
with Nazism, and more broadly militarism. These are the traditional 
higher civil service groups and the big industrialists. In the situation 
which led to Nazism both tended to behave as typical vested-in- 
terest groups and largely threw in their lot with the Nazis although, 
for most of their members, probably mainly as a choice of what 
they felt to be the lesser evil. 

The two groups are by no means identical in their significance. 
The higher civil service has had strong pre-industrial traditions 
which, with its ideal of disinterested service to the state, has made 
it peculiarly susceptible to an anti-capitalistic ideological appeal— a 
susceptibility which the Nazis have exploited to the full. But it is 
overwhelmingly a conservative anti-capitalism which can be readily 
mobilized against all movements of the left. In some respects it is 
the main citadel of the conservative German patterns which are the 
source of most trouble, hierarchy, authoritarianism, formalism and 
status-consciousness. Hence, it is a potentially dangerous focussing 
point second only to the military. 

At the same time, however, it is much more difficult for the De- 
mocracies to cope with. The military ideal has little appeal to the 
Democratic peoples— but an honest, highly trained, technically com- 
petent civil service does, largely because Americans are so acutely 
conscious of their own shortcomings in this respect.*^ Hence, a policy 
of direct liquidation could scarcely fail to be attended by very 
formidable guilt feelings. This, and the importance of this group to 
order and stability in a transitional period in Germany suggests the 
advisability of an indirect attack. Probably the most important 

8 Dr. Margaret Mead points out— in a private communication— that the 
appeal of a good civil service to Americans and to tlie British is very diflFerent and 
that, on this point, it may prove difficult to devise a policy satisfactory to both 


single defense of the old conservative patterns here is the class basis 
of recruitment of the higher personnel. Nazism itself involved a 
revolt against the class aspect of the older German society and the 
general process may be expected to continue after its fall, with a 
leftward emphasis. The most important policy then is to facilitate 
effective, not merely formal, equality of opporttmity in the civil 
service.** It is to be hoped that the stage will have been set for such 
a development by the disorganization of this class produced during 
the Nazi regime. 

The case of the industrial groups is somewhat different. Part of 
their orientation has of course, been determined by the internal 
capital-or management-labor tension— but only part. In Germany 
industry has developed within a conservative pre-industrial social 
structure. This has meant that the higher business groups were in 
a more insecure position than in this country because in a highly 
status-conscious society the highest prestige statuses were not their 
own. They have thus tended to become "feudalized" by imitating 
and attempting to amalgamate with the old upper classes. In the 
situation which led up to Nazism this tendency was accentuated by 
the common polarization against the left. 

It has also been accentuated by the very prominence of the state 
in the German economy— for the power of the state has meant in 
this connection prominence of the role relative to business of the 
old, conservative, administrative civil service. The same has been 
true of the close relations of the army to those industries important 
to war. 

Hence, it may be concluded that it is largely by virtue of its close 
fusion with and dependence on the traditional conservative upper 
structure of Germany— and more recently with elements of the Nazi 
party organization— for example, Goering— that German industry 
has developed institutional tendencies dangerous to the United 
Nations, and not by virtue of the intrinsic characteristics of indus- 
trialism. It is above all its integration with a militaristic state and 
conservative class structure which is the source of this danger. 

For other reasons the deindustrialization for Germany seems most 

^ A key strategic point here is entrance to the Law faculties of the universi- 
ties, the most important channel of access to the higher civil service. In the 
Weimar days there was a striking difference between the Philosophical faculties 
which leaned on the whole to the left— with students drawn from the middle 
classes— and the Law faculties which were rightist with students mainly from 
tlie Conservative upper groups. The system of student Verbindungen played an 
important part in this situation. 


undesirable. But unless the character of the state is greatly changed, 
socialization would not improve the situation— by giving more powder 
to the conservative bureaucracy it might make it worse. So long as 
free enterprise is permitted a prominent place in the American and 
the British economies, an attempt at radical suppression of its 
German counterpart would arouse a powerful guilt reaction. Hence, 
it is a reorientation of German business in the direction of a liberal 
industrialism which seems most desirable. 

The cases just discussed have been those of the principal elite 
groups in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany. Other groups such as the 
lower middle class and in certain respects the peasantry have played 
a very important part in the background of Nazism. But there is 
little to be said for their compulsory suppression. It is to alterations 
in the situation and sentiments of their members, and in the remote 
objects upon which their sentiments become projected, that one 
must look for any important change in their characters and attitudes. 

The case for compulsory suppression in relation to Germany may 
then be summarized. Both in the case of her power to make war 
and of the most important elite groups contributing to her aggres- 
sive disposition, the United Nations will soon have the physical op- 
portunity to go as far as they deem wise. In using this power two 
dangers must be avoided. On the one hand certain forms of ruth- 
lessness, while effective, would conflict so radically with democratic 
values that their repercussions in the society of the victors would 
be devastating. On the other hand, certain ways of exercising their 
power would probably arouse a powerful boomerang reaction and 
thus fail of their purpose. It is not in any simple sense a question 
of a "hard" or a "soft" peace. It is rather a technical question of the 
measures which will attain the goal on which the members of the 
Conference were agreed— a reintegration of Germany into the com- 
munity of Western nations. The technical problem is largely that 
of protecting security interests but at the same time minimizing the 
defensive vested-interest reaction to change, the importance of 
which the whole weight of modern social science emphasizes. 

Permissive Control of the Situation 
As in the case of compulsory suppression, use of control of the sit- 
uation to open new avenues of action can have consequences at 
more than one level. It is probably advisable to avoid all use of this 
for the immediate future for the German nation as a whole. But the 


prospect of future full membership in a cooperative international 
organization should be offered. The danger is that of making this 
offer too patronizing. It is essential to safeguard the moral position 
of those dispensing favors. 

With respect to the internal situation in which the various groups 
of people act, the first problem is that of order and security. The 
evidence is very strong that the rapid change, the mobility and the 
complex tensions of an industiial society will in any case produce 
a high level of psychologically significant insecurity among the 
masses of the population. The reaction to this state contains an im- 
portant element of aggression which has in part been displaced upon 
the foreign enemy. In addition to this, the German people have been 
subjected to an extraordinary variety of influences making for still 
greater insecurity. Some of these are consequences of war as such. 

But the character of the Nazi regime has a special place in this 
connection. On the remote level it undoubtedly gave a temporary 
basis for a greatly enhanced sense of security— although this will be 
devastatingly shattered by defeat. But on the immediate level in at 
least two respects, it operated the other way. It subjected millions 
to an essentially arbitrary hazard to status, property, freedom and 
life itself which must have stood in terrific contrast to the old orderly 
German system. Fear and anxiety as to what may come next must 
play a tremendous role among almost all Germans. In addition to 
this the Nazis have pursued a systematic policy of breaking up vir- 
tually all the independent groupings in the society— from the great 
Trade Union movement to the family. They have "atomized" the 
society wherever its older groupings conflicted with the Party, 
which involved an exceedingly wide area. Since the importance of 
attachment to such groupings for the security of the individual citi- 
zen is known, their disruption must have been attended by an im- 
mense heightening of the level of insecurity.^^ 

Hence, it can be inferred that the fundamental immediate need 
of the German people is for order and security— as an essential con- 
dition of almost anything else. It seems clear that the immediate 
agency for providing this will be Allied Military Government, and 
its role will be crucially important. 

There is a most important basis in German tradition for a favor- 
able response to such a change— in the old pattern of meticulous 

10 Though emotional enthusiasm for Nazism has compensated for this, to 
how great an extent no one can say. In any case, this source of security will be 
gone after the war. 


order— of security of property and status, and strictly legal pro- 
cedure. In this circumstance it is inevitable that important vestiges 
of the old conservative pattern should re-emerge, including hier- 
archy, authoritarianism and formalism. Indeed, the role of the AMG 
autliorities will itself be defined in terms of these German patterns, 
more rigidly authoritarian and more formalistic than would be the 
case in an Anglo-Saxon country. To be effective in the present sense, 
it is essential that AMG should accept this role. 

But it is none the less important to avoid two closely interdepend- 
ent dangers. One is, as the path of least resistance to quick restora- 
tion of order, lending too strong a sanction to the older conservative 
patterns and the social elements which symbolize them. Above all 
it is essential that the occupying authority should not "identify" 
with the old, upper classes, but should remain aloof from them.^^ 
There is presumably a very tangible limit to the extent to which 
such an authority can permit any pattern of order it once allows to 
be established to be displaced by violence. But it can do much by 
refraining from lending its positive sanction and prestige to an order 
and thereby handicapping other groups and patterns. It should 
assiduously cultivate as fluid a situation as the basic requirements 
of order will permit. 

The second danger arises from the fact that in a state of pro- 
nounced insecurity spontaneous groupings tend to be largely "de- 
fensive" in orientation. There will be a strong tendency to rally 
around old traditional patterns. But, in addition, there is ample 
evidence that the patterns governing such defensive orientation to 
security tend, when seen in relation to the main institutional trends 
of modern Western civilization, to be "regressive" in character. In 
particular, the elements of universalism in relation to functional 
efficiency, and the orientation to functionally specialized roles tend 
to disintegrate in favor of particularistic group solidarities. This is 
a particularly serious danger for Germany, both because of the high 
level of insecurity and because the Nazis have already gone very 
far to destroy these patterns in the older German society. 

A certain amount of this tendency is a "healthy" reaction in the 

circumstances. But it should not be allowed to become too firmly 

consolidated. It may be necessary to take positive steps to eliminate 

some of its more extreme manifestations. But more important ways 

^ 1 It is probable that the extent to which the Allies confirmed the legitimacy 
of the position of the conservative elements after the last war was an important 
impediment to the strengthening of more liberal forces within Germany. 


of mitigating it are to reduce the need for it by improving the level 
of security, and opening opportunities for alternative patterns of 

This type of group formation is a danger for two main reasons. 
The importance of conservative, militaristic, nationalistic patterns in 
recent German history is so great that it would be exceedingly dif- 
ficult to avoid a very close connection and hence a tendency to 
resurgence. But secondly, if Western civilization is to survive at all, 
it must be as a relatively mobile, "individualistic," industrial society 
where such universalistic values as those of science, modern tech- 
nology, and the rights of the individual citizen play a prominent 
part. No major unit like Germany in this "Great Society" can be 
successfully insulated from these patterns. But a great block of the 
social structure which is institutionalized in a conflicting pattern is 
a source of serious internal conflict and tension in the society as a 
whole. It is precisely from such a conflict that, in large measure, 
the Nazi movement has grown. A policy which would consolidate 
such tendencies would not conduce to less tension than existed in 
pre-war European society. It would be laying the foundations of a 
repetition of the disturbance through which the Western world has 

Security, and measures to counteract the above tendencies, im- 
portant as they are, are probably not enough to start a strong move- 
ment of positive institutional change in the right direction. There is, 
however, a possibility of using control of the situation of action at 
least to encourage this. In selecting points at which to exert such 
control three primary considerations are most important: first, ac- 
cessibility to effective influence; second, strategic significance in the 
total system of the structure affected; and, third, vulnerability to 
serious boomerang repercussions which might nullify the desired 
effect. There are four principal structures which have been widely 
discussed as possibilities— the family, the educational system, the 
state itself and economic or, more in sociological terms, occupa- 
tional situations. 

There is little doubt that in terms of strategic significance the 
family is the most important structure because of its paramount 
influence on the socialization of the younger generation. It is, how- 
ever, by far the least accessible to direct influence since it belongs 
so much to the sphere of private life which is protected from inter- 
ference. Probably, by far the most important ways of influencing 


the family are by indirect influence. It is to be expected that any 
substantial change in the occupational structure would profoundly 
influence the roles of husband and father. Greater security and a 
removal of the emphasis on hierarchy and relations of authority 
would greatly reduce the need of a man to "take it out" by being a 
petty tyrant over his wife and children. This would be a primary 
objective of the economic policy suggested hereafter. 

The second major point touches the position of women. This has 
been a major source of difficulty in German society because of the 
deep ambivalence in the child's relation to his mother it has fos- 
tered. Any change which can enhance the dignity and position of 
independent resposibility of women so that they can successfully 
"stand up" to men, will operate in the right direction. But here also 
it is probable that occupational changes offer the most important 
possibilities. The opening of further occupational opportunities for 
women is only one phase of it. Making domestic service more ex- 
pensive and servants less submissive would have an important effect 
in tlirowing more responsibility on middle-class women. But most 
important would be a shift in the definition of the masculine occu- 
pational role. Germany has been a rather extreme case of status con- 
sciousness. This has meant that the position of the married woman 
has, to a far greater extent than with the democracies, been defined 
by the status of her husband^-— and hence her scope for independ- 
ent development has been very narrowly circumscribed. A change 
of emphasis in the direction of functional role rather than status 
would alter this and give a wider scope for feminine independence. 
The use of this freedom need not take any one direction— it does not 
do so in the United States. But it would go far to emancipate 
women from a dependency relationship to particular men. 

The case of the educational system is a peculiarly difficult one. 
To the psychologically minded, it offers a very tempting opening. 
This is particularly true of the naive "rationalists" who think of the 
German problem as one of simple indoctrination with the proper 
attitudes and values. But it is quite positively known, both on the 
level of psychology and of social structure, that this is not the case. 
The problem is that of making the desired patterns "stick." The at- 
titudes fostered in democratic schools are not the product of teach- 
ers and text books alone— These influences are reinforced by many 
others, such as those of home, play group and the general social 

1^ Symbolized by the fact that a married woman takes not only the name, 
but the title of her husband; for example, Frau Oberst, Frau Professor. 


atmosphere. If all these could be controlled at the same time, the 
case of the educational system would be difficult. But they almost 
certainly cannot, as the case of the family shows. 

Even if it were possible to mold the school system rather com- 
pletely to the desired pattern, it is very questionable whether it 
would be desirable to attempt it, since in the absence of control 
over the other elements of the situation there would be an especially 
stiong likelihood of a powerful boomerang reaction which would 
more than nullify the direct effect. The German type of mentality 
is, with its paranoid characteristics, more than usually likely to re- 
sent what it interprets— often irrationally— as gratuitously patroniz- 
ing "interference." Any United Nations agency or policy which was 
in the position of "dictating" the education of Germans would be 
an ideal scapegoat around which to rally all the resentments which 
will inevitably be produced by the humiliation of defeat. Not only 
would this produce serious difficulties in the behavior of adults, but 
it would react so powerfully on the younger generation that it 
would probably completely destroy the educational program. This 
is particularly true if it has not proved possible through the family 
to lay appropriate foundations in character structure for a "demo- 
cratic" education. 

Even more in this field than in many others any fundamental 
change ought to appear to come from spontaneous German sources. 
And should attempts to alter the institutional balance by other 
measures succeed, an educational reorientation would automatically 
follow. But to use imposed educational reform— even with the co- 
operation of Democratic Germans— as a main direct avenue of 
change is one of the most dangerous suggestions under discussion. 

This does not, of course, by any means preclude a certain amount 
of negative control of education. But even here the more of it can 
be a spontaneous result of the revulsion incident to the collapse of 
the Nazi regime the better. 

Somewhat the same considerations apply to proposals for the 
direct control of government, for this is a critical symbolic focus of 
the ideological and sentimental structure of a nation. The fate of 
the Weimar regime in this regard is instructive. It was, in fact, by 
no means simply imposed by the victorious allies. But the Nazis 
fully succeeded in getting it defined as such by a large fraction of 
the German masses— as an "alien" regime which should be replaced 
by something "truly German." In general it is much better to at- 
tempt to control the patterns of government through control of the 


situation in which it has to act. If that is properly handled, the 
"form" of government can safely be allowed to care for itself. At- 
tempts to influence that directly are in grave danger of boomerang 

These two cases suggest two further rather general maxims which 
should govern United Nations behavior toward Germany. The first 
is that a quick, easy turning of the German people to patterns and 
forms closely in accord with democratic values should be regarded 
with serious suspicion and not too readily and joyfully accepted. 
This is not so much because it is likely to be "insincere," masking a 
plot, as because of the ambivalence and instability of the structure 
of sentiments underlying it. It is likely to represent the dominance 
of one potentiality of an ambivalent structure. It is after all the 
major premise of this analysis that basic changes of institutions and 
character structure are necessary before a stable, permanent re- 
orientation of the German people can take place. It is impossible 
that such changes should have been completed within a brief pe- 
riod after the war. 

Secondly, American functionaries dealing with Germans in any 
capacity should be on their guard against using those who on a naive 
level "make a good impression" on tiiem personally. For the prob- 
ability is that they will be people congenial to American patterns 
and hence incapable of exercising leadership over those Germans 
whose attitudes are different and hence most need to be changed. 
The first question to ask about a person, an organization or a group 
is, what is its position in the German social system? Is it in a suf- 
ficiently strategic position to exert an important influence in the 
right direction? Only when this question can be answered in the 
affirmative does it become even relevant to ask, how can we get 
along with him or them? 

There are two specific directions in which this danger is particu- 
larly acute. First, attraction to Germans with good democratic ideas 
and attitudes is likely. But this very fact may so define their status 
in their own society as to preclude their effectiveness in doing what 
is desired. Second, there is an inclination to have a strong predilec- 
tion for people of the old, established, upper classes— they are 
"educated," and have good manners, for example. But in a revolu- 
tionary situation, identifying with them may directly block the 
forces which could accomplish the most desirable changes in a 
larger context. 


These considerations suggest one aspect of a policy. It seems un- 
likely that after the collapse of the Nazi regime there will be any- 
thing like a government of Germany. Although a difficult situation 
in many respects, this will have the great advantage of relieving the 
occupying forces of the obligation to work with any particular 
group. In such a situation it would, within the requirements of 
order, seem highly advisable to allow as much freedom as possible 
for the spontaneous formation of groups and emergence of leaders. 
Such a policy could do much to prevent the serious error of pre- 
mature commitment to people who later prove unable to carry 
their own followers with them. The basic principle applies all the 
way from a national government down to the smallest groups. 

The fourth major structiure to be considered here is the economic- 
occupational structure. This seems to be much the most promising 
as a lever of institutional change according to all three of the criteria 
previously set forth. 

First, it is undoubtedly a highly strategic point in the total struc- 
ture. It is one in which the great bulk of the adult male population, 
and a considerable fraction of the female, spend nearly half their 
waking hours. The situation and definition or role in the occupa- 
tional sphere is of profound, direct significance But through its close 
structural interdependence with kinship and the class structure an 
important change there would have major repercussions in these 
neighboring areas. 

The desirable direction of change is in the first place a quantita- 
tive spread in the incidence of functionally differentiated roles 
where functional achievement is the principal emphasis and value. 
In proportion to this spread, roles in which an established status 
was the main emphasis, as in large sections of the peasantry, the 
old Mittelstand and the older elite groups, would be correspond- 
ingly weakened. 

The second aspect of change is one of altered emphasis, away 
from hierarchy, authority and formalism, in the direction of func- 
tional achievement as the dominant value, and status as the reflec- 
tion of this, not vice versa. 

The probable effect on the family has already been indicated- 
mitigation of the authoritarianism of the husband-father role and 
opportimity for a more dignified feminine role to develop. On the 
class structure the principal effect would be to weaken the rigid 
formahsm of the status hierarchy. 


Secondly, it is a point of departure which is much less likely than 
the others to arouse defensive reactions which might be strong 
enough to defeat its purpose. In the first place, it is, as such, fairly 
close to ideological neutrality. Most of the required changes, so far 
as they need advertisement at all, can be justified simply as meas- 
ures to open opportunities and contribute to the welfare of Ger- 
mans. Many can be so unobtrusive as to arouse little attention 
beyond the limited groups most immediately affected. So far as the 
context is mainly commercial and technical the democratic peoples 
are used to treating these problems more objectively than others. 
Above all the status of the German nation need not be dramatically 

There is a very solid common basis of shared value here in the 
admiration for technical and organizational eflBciency and achieve- 
ment. Few Americans will deny the Germans a high rating in these 
respects and vice versa. 

There seems to be one major point at which trouble is likely; 
namely, German oversensitiveness to alleged American "material- 
ism," and "money-consciousness." For this reason the emphasis 
should probably be placed on technical— including scientific— devel- 
opment rather than directly on trade and commercial development. 

In the field of indirect repercussions there is one major risk, and 
one factor which might block the process. In the nature of the case 
the German tendency to military aggression could only be gradually 
eliminated. It is possible that a policy which increased German in- 
dustrial power before the deeper structural change had gone far 
enough would play into the hands of a nationalistically aggressive 
resurgence. The answer to this objection lies in other features of 
the control structure. If the latter is strong, no tendency to militari- 
zation of the German economy could get well started, however 
great her industrial potential. Even after Hitler's advent to power, 
it was the weakness of the Allies, who could not bring themselves 
to intervene before it was too late, not the strength of Germany 
before her rearmament was far advanced, which made it possible 
for Germany to become a military threat. It is to a better system of 
international control, not to de-industrialization of Germany, that 
one must look for a solution of this problem. ^^ 

1'* This paper was written before the public discussion of the so-called 
"Morgenthau Plan." That discussion has not caused me to alter my fundamental 


The possible block lies in the question of capacity to accept the 
repercussions of such a policy. The probable consequence is German 
industrial expansion. In view of Germany's economic position, this 
would be possible only with considerable expansion of her foreign 
trade. Protectionism has been a growing tendency all over the world 
and has not been least prominent in the United States. If the auto- 
matic reaction to German trade expansion everywhere were the 
progressive raising of trade barriers, this would bring the process 
to a halt or force it into a nationalistic-aggressive pattern. 

It has not been possible to consider here the probable repercus- 
sions of the opposite policy— the drastic de-industrialization of Ger- 
many. SuflBce it to say that from the point of view of Western insti- 
tutional stability they would appear to be even more serious. 

But apart from these questions of repercussions, is a control 
through economic-occupational channels on a scale large enough 
to be effective, realistically feasible? If it is seriously meant, it 
should be. 

The essential thing is that there should be a policy of fostering a 
highly productive, full-employment, expanding economy for Ger- 
many. The inherent tendencies of the modern industrial economy 
are such that if this is achieved its influence on institutional change 
will be automatically in the right direction. Conversely, tendencies 
to particularism, the breakdown of functional specialization, over- 
emphasis on group solidarity are overwhelmingly defensive reac- 
tions to the insecurity attendant on a contracting field of oppor- 
tunity. It is not modern industrialism as such, but its pathology and 
the incompleteness of its development which fosters these phe- 

Specific means are various. One is relative freedom for trade ex- 
pansion. Another is fostering fiscal and monetary stability and the 
measures economists advocate to stimulate high production. 

Apart from this type of measures there is another possibility. It 
has been indicated that the principal area of common value is tech- 
nical and organizational achievement. It is, therefore, suggested 
that the first majer steps in the reintegration of Germany into the 
Western community should be the admission of the professional 
representatives of these values into the community of their Allied 
"opposite numbers." This should be true of technologists, trade 
groups, scientific societies, professional groups, university exchange. 
The professionally specialized character of their role would do 


much to reduce their vulnerabiHt>' to being defined as "traitors sell- 
ing out" to the enemy, in the German view. At the same time, these 
groups have a key influence in defining crucially important patterns 
in democratic society. Genuine integration of the German counter- 
parts would do much to set a right tone for the corresponding devel- 
opment in Germany. It would also help to avoid defining the situ- 
ation in terms of corrupting German "idealism" with Western 
commercialism and "materialism," since science, technology and the 
professions are relatively immune to this charge. 

Direct Gontrol of Subjective Factors 
Whatever may be true of the long-run influence of "ideas" in 
shaping social structures and culture patterns, it is one of the most 
important results of modern psychological and social science that, 
except in certain particular areas, ideas and sentiments, both on the 
individual and the mass levels, are more dependent manifestations 
of deeper lying structures— character structure and institutional struc- 
ture, as they have been called here— than independent determinants 
of behavior. They are, however, inf£?rdependent with the other ele- 
ments of the system and there is always the possibility that in par- 
ticular instances they may be highly strategic factors. Hence, the 
problems on this level should be explicitly considered as an integral 
part of an analysis like the present. 

The most obviously important of the mass manifestations in this 
field is the ideological definition of the situation. The Nazi move- 
ment has succeeded in winning acceptance by a large portion of the 
German people— in varying degrees of intensity and completeness 
—for a relatively well-integrated complex ideological system. Its 
principal component elements have been "endemic" in Western 
society, although part of the combination has been peculiarly Ger- 
man in a pre-Nazi sense. But it is the intensity of affective fixation 
and the particular combination which are unique. 

The most important components, familiar as they are, had best 
be summarized as follows: first, perhaps, is the conception of the 
German national community, the Volksgemeinschaft, pseudo-bio- 
logically defined as a "race," as having a special historic role, a 
mission to purge the world of the great evils and impurities of the 
time— of "materialism," "corruption," plutocracy, bolshevism. This 
purge is to usher in an eschatological millennium, the New Order 
or Tausendiaehriges Reich in which all men will be blissfully 
happy and noble. 


A major aspect of the corrupt world which is to be purged is 
capitahstic materiahsm, commercial-mindedness. Over against this 
is set the "heroic" ideal which serves to rationalize a conspicuous 
readiness to resort to force in order to execute the providential mis- 
sion—and thus to idealize "militarism." 

The sense of a special mission is also closely associated with the 
"master race" idea. Since the Germans are the heroic people, it is 
to be expected that their superiority should be manifested in a 
position of dominance attained by force and perpetuated that way. 
All other peoples are thus inferior and to be subordinated— for 
their own good, of course. The development of democracy, capital- 
ism and bolshevism among the most important of these other peo- 
ples demonstrates their decadence and unfitness to perform a role 
of leadership in the world. 

The Jew has of course served as the master symbol of the ad- 
versary of the German people and their mission. One of his most 
important functions is to unify the different evils which beset them 
in a single tangible symbol— above all to bring capitalism and bol- 
shevism together. The Jew is not only a group enemy but is also a 
semi-magical source of "infection." So far as the Nazis attack any- 
thing, it becomes "Jewish" in sovereign disregard of the alleged bio- 
logical race doctrine. Thus both American capitalism and Russian 
communism are essentially Jewish, although J. P. Morgan and Henry 
Ford, like Lenin and Stalin, would appear to have no Jewish ante- 
cedents whatever. Even the British people as a whole have become 
"white Jews" to certain radical Nazi circles. 

The relation of an ideological system to the social system in 
which it takes root is highly complex, and subject to a great deal of 
variation in different circumstances. In a well-integrated society the 
dominant ideology in large measure reflects and interprets a large 
part of the system of actually institutionalized patterns. But even 
in the most stable societies the ideological patterns are selective 
relative to the institutional. Ideological formulation often reflects a 
need to justify, which may imply a sense of insecurity. Hence, those 
patterns which are most completely taken for granted are likely to 
play a small role, if any, in explicit ideology. The system is thus 
"skewed" in the direction of emphasizing elements which are felt 
to be "problematical." Consciousness of contrast with other societies 
is one major factor in this. 

Every society has important elements of conflict. Hence, an ide- 


ology which has unifying functions will tend to "play down" the 
elements of internal conflict and thus be "skewed" in another way. 
In the United States, for example, from the "official" ideology one 
could get little insight into the actual divergences and conflicts 
between religious, ethnic and class groups. 

Finally, the objects of ideological formulation are mainly in the 
"remote" category to most persons— or are high-level abstractions 
with a similar significance. Hence, they are less fully controlled by 
realistic considerations and constitute particularly favorable oppor- 
tunities for the operation of such nonrational and irrational mechan- 
isms as projection, displacement, identification. Where there are 
severe and definitely structured tensions in a society there are almost 
certain to be ideological patterns which contain conspicuous ele- 
ments of unrealism, romantic idealization, and distortion. 

All these considerations apply in full measure to the various levels 
of German ideology. The nearest thing to an official ideology of 
the older Germany was what may be called "Prussian conservatism." 
This went far toward directly reflecting the institutionalization of 
the conservative patterns previously discussed. It took relatively 
little account of the A component of German character. To some 
extent, however, this was expressed in religious form, and in the 
valuation of various forms of a-political romanticism— in the arts and 
philosophy. Germany as a land of poets and idealistic dreamers 
fits into this situation. 

Perhaps the most important aspect of this underlying conservative 
ideology for the present problem is its bearing on the readiness with 
which Germans respond to an "anti-capitalistic" appeal. The basic 
value and prestige symbols of this pattern are pre-industrial, center- 
ing on class traditions, the enormous dignity of the state, a noblesse 
oblige code of honor, and an ideal of disinterested service and duty. 
This made it easy to define profit-making business as a form of 
corruption of these high ideals, and the countries particularly marked 
by its prominence, like England and the United States, became very 
vulnerable to the stigma of "materialism"; for example, England as 
the "nation of shopkeepers" and the United States as ruled by the 
"Almighty Dollar." The Anglo-Saxon "business ideology" has served 
to make these countries all the more vulnerable. The German devil 
could only too easily find scripture to quote. 

It may be assumed that the sentiments expressed in this ideolog- 
ical complex are still very powerful in Germany and that their defi- 


nition of Anglo-Saxon character as materialistic by contrast with 
their own noble idealism is a very serious impediment to tlie Allies 
acquiring a role of moral prestige relative to Germany. It is also 
one primary foundation of the appeal of the symbol "socialism" 
there. ^* 

This background is important to understanding the role of the 
ideology of the "left" in Germany also. This took over the patterns 
of rationalism and the Enlightenment, and of course opposed Ger- 
man conservatism. But it too was, although from a very different 
point of view, anti-capitalistic. It may even be suggested that the 
latent anticapitalism of the conservative background, plus the pres- 
tige of the state, was an important positive factor in the wide ap- 
peal of Marxian socialism in Germany— which gave it the largest 
socialist party in Europe. At any rate, "liberalism" tended to be 
ground down between these two millstones and was far weaker 
than elsewhere in the Western world. 

From an ideological view Nazism is a kind of synthesis of these 
two basic currents plus a highly emotionalized nationalistic-political 
expression of the A component of German character as an escha- 
tological political romanticism. It has presented an extraordinarily 
wide combination of symbolic appeals calculated to catch virtually 
every main strain of German sentiment with which it is difficult for 
Anglo-Saxons to cope. 

What are the prospects and possibilities following the collapse 
of Nazism? First, the immediate collapse is likely to be devastatingly 
thorough and to give rise to a profound convulsion of sentiment 
and thought. The Germans are likely to be the most badly dis- 
oriented people of modern history for a considerable period. This 
is, in part, because in accepting emotional adherence to such a 
drastically romantic doctrine as Nazism, they have gone extraordi- 
narily far to isolate themselves both from the reality and from the 
moral community of Western civilization. Hence, the awakening 
from their "hypnotic self-intoxication" will produce a very severe 
national "hangover." But it is also in part because of a fundamental 
factor of instability. As a charismatic movement par excellence 
Nazism has lacked the security given by an sstablished basis of 

14 For an expression of this antithesis on a very high level, see Troeltsch, 
Ernest, Deutscher Geist und Westeuropa, Tiibingen Mohr, von Hansbaron, 1925 
(ix and 268 pp.). A much more vulgar version is that of Somlaart, Werner, 
Handler und Helden, Munchen, Duncker and Humblot, 1915 (vii and 145 pp.). 
Both are pre-Nazi. 


legitimacy. Lacking this, it has to be legitimized by success and is 
overwhelmingly dependent on this. Hitler has unequivocally com- 
mitted the movement to the definition of this war as the ultimate 
test by ordeal of his mission. Its definitive loss cannot but result in 
the deflation of the whole Nazi myth and an acute crisis of con- 

But though the Nazi ideological structure may, except for a 
group of fanatical die-hards who will go underground, be expected 
to disintegrate, its components will remain "endemic" in the Ger- 
man situation. What are the prospects of restructuring? 

The selectivity of ideologies is such that in the German case it is 
highly probable that there are more favorable starting points for 
integration with American— and British— patterns on the institu- 
tional level than on the ideological. Institutionally German society 
has been rather conspicuously unintegrated. A dominant national 
ideology tends to concentrate on defining the situation for the 
nation as a unit; it has to unify and therefore play down actual 
structural elements which do not fit well. Furthermore, orientation 
to other national units plays a very prominent role with a need to 
feel a strong contrast and assert a "real" superiority to those which 
seem to enjoy the dominant external position in the world. 

Given the forces underlying the formation of ideology in Ger- 
many on the character structure and institutional levels, it seems 
most unlikely that before these are greatly changed there is any 
prospect of stimulating the formation and dominance of a national 
ideology which could be closely integrated with those of the demo- 
cratic countries and also be made to "stick." A repetition of the 
1918-1919 romantic-Utopian enthusiasm for Wilsonian democracy 
seems unlikely. But if it should appear it should be regarded with 
even more skepticism than the study of this experience would sug- 
gest. For a firm basis for it almost certainly could not exist. 

It is more likely that a revolutionary situation may develop in 
Germany which would bring a communist ideology to a command- 
ing position. By interpreting the defeat as a victory for the working 
classes and the revolution, and thoroughly liquidating the old up- 
per classes, this could do much to eradicate the humiliation of de- 

!•'» These considerations remind one of the importance of insuring that in 
every symbolic as well as realistic respect it is a definitive victory of Allied arms. 
It seems quite possible that a major motive of the tenacity of German resistance 
at certain conspicuous points— as in Italy and at Brest— is to preserve the 
myth that a German force is not "really" beaten. It is only eventually "unfairly" 
overwhelmed by superior force. It has won a moral victory. 


iesLt}^ But it is scarcely likely that Britain and the United States will 
wish actively to promote this solution, although they may adapt to 
it more or less gracefully if it should happen spontaneously or 
through Russian influence. 

These considerations play an important part in determining the 
emphasis placed in foregoing paragraphs upon approach to the 
German problem through situational factors. Above all the view so 
common among Americans that it is "conversion" to democratic 
values which is the key to bringing Germany "around" is one of the 
most dangerous misconceptions currently in the air. To attempt to 
do so by propaganda or other means of indoctrination would almost 
certainly intensify a tendency to ideological reaction which would 
give the Germans the unique role they so desperately feel they 
need and deserve. 

The main conclusion from the foregoing analysis is that the ideo- 
logical problem needs to be handled with especial care, and most 
important, an attempt to define the situation for the German nation 
as a unit in "democratic" terms is dangerous. But before considering 
what can be done, it is necessary to discuss one possibility of spon- 
taneous development. 

One of the keynotes of German attitude structure for a very long 
time has been dualism. Although the best-institutionalized, the con- 
servative pattern has never had the sanction of more than one side 
of this duality. This fact has been fundamental to the "formalism" 
of German institutions. There has been a strong feeling that some- 
how the fulfillment of institutionalized roles did not provide a field 
of expression of the "real" inner personality. It was rather a set of 
duties and obligations laid dov^oi by Providence— or "fate"— which 
merely demonstrated the tragic element in life. In earlier times this 
"inner" life was predominantly defined in religious terms, with a 
specific Lutheran slant. More recently it has been in artistic or 
philosophical terms. 

But this romanticism has not remained individualistic. It has in 
later times gotten linked to a conception of the "real" life, that is 
mission, of the German people, which was not to remain a prosai- 
cally conservative system of order. The ability to mobilize the ro- 
mantic urge was one of the most important sources of strength of 
the Nazi movement. 

16 This possibility was suggested to me by Dr. Robert Waelder— unpub- 
lished correspondence. 


This dualism goes to the very roots of the German structure. It 
will not and cannot be overcome until the long process of funda- 
mental change is nearly complete. Furthermore, the romantic ele- 
ment cannot be permitted political expression in terms of national 
power. The immediate effect of suppressing this expression will be 
to bring the conservative component back to a dominant position. 
But the romantic component will not disappear— it will have to find 
expression in some other form. 

It is of course possible that the link with the mission of the Ger- 
man nation will be broken and a purely individualistic romanticism 
reappear. But particularly in a world where nationalistic feelings 
run high everywhere, this seems unlikely. It is more likely that it 
will take another direction. The element of aggression may well be 
turned inward upon themselves. The defeat may be interpreted 
masochistically as just punishment for their own derelictions— surely 
there must be an enormous reservoir of guilt available for this 
purpose. ^'^ 

But if this happens it is likely to be associated with a new expres- 
sion rather than an elimination of the national sense of mission as a 
specially chosen people. If this can be completely sublimated into 
a cultural mission perhaps, well and good. But it is more likely to 
contain an undercurrent of a sense of persecution and an orientation 
to the day of fulfillment when revenge can be taken. 

The analogy to the Jewish people in the time of the Prophets is 
striking. Acceptance of the same order of deposition from all im- 
mediate hopes of worldly glory as a judgment of God would solve 
the immediate problem of German aggression. But it would not 
insure against its eventual revival, and it would preserve a basis for 
it because it would consolidate the separateness of the German 
people instead of assimilating them into the larger community of 
Western civilization. It would probably favor alteration of their 
institutional structure in a direction different from that envisaged 

Whether or not such a development will take place is probably 

considerably more dependent on processes on the situational and 

institutional levels, and thus the direct influence on them of Allied 

policies, than on those on the ideological level as such. But Allied 

ideological policy can at least avoid measures which would favor 

1" The existence of this reservoir has been questioned by Dr. Margaret Mead. 
A good deal of evidence, however, seems to indicate its great importance. This is 
surely one of the most important problems for further research about Germany. 


it— or the perpetuation of Nazism— and can exert some pressure 
toward influencing a balance of forces if it is at all close. 

The most fundamental consideration is that of the moral position 
of the victorious Western powers. This is a field where actions speak 
louder than words and a propaganda deliberately emphasizing a 
strong moral case would probably be interpreted as self-righteous 
cant. But the Western Allies are rather unlikely to indulge in this. 
A more serious danger is succumbing to a wave of guilt and self- 
depreciation. This could hardly fail to have a serious effect on 
Germany since it would confirm their own arrogance. To retain 
moral self-confidence without "protesting too much" is one of the 
most important conditions of exerting the right influence. 

Western civilization as a whole has been a moral community his- 
torically—although never anywhere nearly perfectly integrated. This 
has been based on the values of Christianity and certain derived or 
closely related secular values— such as those of science, and free in- 
quiry, the dignity and freedom of the person, even equality of op- 
portunity. Despite differentiated versions, distortions, and contra- 
dictory values there, these values are by on means dead in Ger- 
many. Their wholesale violation must have produced much guilt- 
feeling however deeply repressed it may now be. 

A cautious propaganda appeal to these sentiments may be consid- 
ered—by word and deed. In doing so, two especial precautions 
should be observed. First, the appeal should as far as possible be 
dissociated from anything to do with the status of the German 
nation as a unit. It should be made to the rights and duties of per- 
sons or citizens and groups as such, not as Germans, and to imper- 
sonal patterns such as truth or freedom. The obviousness of the 
inclusion of Germans under the universality of such values should 
be the main context. 

Second, the form in which they are expressed should so far as 
possible avoid association with or suggestion of those aspects of 
Western societies which have served as widespread negative sym- 
bols in Germany. Thus, expressions of the values of freedom should 
not emphasize freedom to make profits, or even, in many contexts, 
of trade. Similarly suggestion of a direct connection of adherence 
to such values with the British or American position of power in 
the world should be avoided. 

Although major effects cannot be expected from positive propa- 
ganda of this sort, it is undoubtedly worth promoting on the prin- 


ciple that "every little bit helps." But in the field of ideology and 
sentiments the most important conclusions from sociological and 
psychological analysis are those concerning the dangers to avoid. 

One general methodological point may be emphasized in con- 
clusion. A complex social system like the German is composed of 
many variable elements which are interdependent in complex ways. 
It is highly unlikely that there is any one sovereign "key" to the 
practical solution of the German problem. The Germans do not 
suflFer from a unified disease syndrome for which a specific remedy 
is known. Confronted with this kind of problem the basic orienta- 
tion of policy is clear. Although some openings for control are far 
more strategic than others, in general there are two fundamental 

Utilize every opening for control which is practicable and can be 
shown to influence the system in the right direction, but 

Analyze the repercussions of such change throughout the system 
as carefully as possible. 

Where there is reason to believe that these, as will frequently be 
the case, include processes which tend to neutralize or nullify the 
change, make sure that one or more of the following conditions is 
fulfilled: that the counteracting force is of suflBciently small mag- 
nitude so that the net gain is substantial; that measures are feasible 
which can be expected effectively to neutralize it; or, that the pro- 
posal for change is abandoned. 


Population and the Social 
Structure of Japan 

THE STRUCTURE AND trends of population of an area constitute both 
an important index to the deeper-lying social structure and situ- 
ation, and a very important set of conditions which will affect its 
future development. The population situation of Japan reflects the 
most fundamental fact about Japanese society: that it has been a 
society in transition from a "feudal" preindustrial organization— of 
a very distinctive type— to a modem urbanized industrial society 
closer to the social type of the great industrial countries of the 
West than any other Oriental country. 

Available evidence indicates that before the Meiji restoration 
the population of Japan had long been relatively stable at a level 
of approximately thirty millions. As in practically all other prein- 
dustrial societies this stable balance was achieved in terms of a 
high birth rate balanced by a high mortality rate, with all the fa- 
miliar concomitants of that situation, such as high infant mortality 
and high disease rates in many fields. The most authoritative recent 
study states: "The pattern of mortality in Japan . . . was similar to 
that of mediaeval Europe, or that of the isolated regions of con- 
temporary China. The ultimate controls to growth were famine and 
epidemics. . . . Even abortion and infanticide appear to have been 
techniques that flourished after the great calamities— not tech- 
niques ... to forestall the calamities."^ 

With the dramatic change in Japan's situation in the mid-nine- 
teenth century, there began a rapid process of industrialization and 
urbanization. As in the corresponding phases of the process in the 
Western world, it was marked by a rapid increase of population, to 
a total of over seventy millions by 1940. Only in the latest recorded 

1 Irene B. Taeuber and Edwin G. Beal, "The Dynamics of Population in 
Japan," Demographic Studies of Selected Areas of Rapid Growth (New York: 
Milbank Memorial Fund, 1944), p. 6. 


census period— between 1935 and 1940— did the rate of increase 
begin to slacken. 

Certain notable facts stand out in the more detailed picture. Ap- 
parent increases in death rates are almost certainly explicable in 
terms of improved registration of deaths. Hence the increase seems 
almost wholly due to a progressive lowering of death rates without 
a compensating reduction of birth rates— again typical of the earlier 
stages of industrialization in the Western world. A further striking 
fact is that the rural population, as closely as can be ascertained, 
had remained almost exactly constant during the period. The whole 
increase has gone to the cities, and until the most recent period to 
the largest cities. A very large part of this urban increase, how- 
ever, came from the surplus of rural births. Finally, the process 
which has marked all Western industrial countries also has set in 
unmistakably in Japan— the decline in birth rates in urban commu- 
nities. By 1940 the total rate of growth was beginning to slacken, 
but it still was very rapid. On the basis of extrapolation of the 
curve, a stage comparable to the approaching stabilization, or 
actual decline, in Western countries would not be reached for a 
long time. 

Thus the process of declining rate of increase has probably been 
setting in more slowly than in the West. But the above are the 
fundamentals of it. Nothing could better reflect the basic impor- 
tance of Japan's emergence from rural isolation to industrialism, 
nor the fact that the social consequences, at the outreak of the war, 
were very far from complete. 

The population history of the Western world seems to indicate 
that even a major war does not necessarily change the fundamental 
course of development of a population. In both Germany and 
Great Britain the birth and death rates continued to decline after 
1918, though the process probably was accelerated by the war. For 
Japan, however, defeat may mean a profounder population crisis 
very closely connected with the major problems of her whole 

The great urban population has not been supported primarily 
by interchange with the countryside of the home islands; "foreign 
trade," whether in the free markets of world trade or in a closed 
imperial system, has played an essential part. The very stability of 
the rural population seems to indicate great tenacity in a rural 
standard of living which has risen only gradually during the period 


of great economic expansion. If Japan is forced back economically 
upon herself, the rigidity of the whole structure is such that it 
might force her population balance back into the old pattern of 
high rural-type birth rates compensated in a correspondingly high 
death rate— with eventually a new stabilization at a figure probably 
somewhere between the thirty millions of Tokugawa and the seventy 
millions of the present. If this happens, however, it will both con- 
dition and reflect profound changes in Japanese tendencies of social 
development— a drastic check to the process of internal change 
which has dominated the society for the better part of a century. 

The recent characteristics of Japanese social structure and its 
potentialities of adaptation to the consequences of defeat must be 
understood in terms of the dynamic consequences of this process 
of industrialization. This process, curiously, has combined features 
resembling the Western counterpart with striking differences and 
peculiarities of its own. To understand this in turn it is necessary 
to sketch briefly the main outline of the older authentically Japa- 
nese components and the particular type of Western industrialism 
which has come into Japan. 

The base, and the part which has been changed least fundamen- 
tally, is the social structure of the rural villages in which, on the 
eve of the war, about 70 per cent of the population still lived. In 
main outline this base has been similar to that of peasant societies 
in many parts of the world. The basic unit has been the kinship 
group responsible for the tillage of an agricultural holding. With a 
good many local variations this still is the common element. The 
kinship unit is patrilineal, with status inherited by primogeniture, 
so that the normal household contains three rather than two gen- 
erations. The eldest son remains in his father's household, brings a 
wife from outside, and with the retirement or death of the father 
becomes proprietor and head of the household. Younger sons must 
find places outside since the holding is passed down intact and 
undivided. In the last couple of generations much the commonest 
outlet for younger sons has been migration to the cities, without 
complete severance of ties with the home village and family. Daugh- 
ters always go out, either to marry into a similar farm family— per- 
haps in a neighboring village— or to migrate to the city. Until she 
is married a daughter is very strictly under the control of her 
parental family. 

The tradition of continuity of family on the ancestral holdings 


is very strong. If there is no son to inherit, it is common practice to 
adopt a young man to marry a daughter. In this case the usual pat- 
tern is reversed. The new son-in-law takes the name of his wife's 
family and becomes a member of their household. Holdings are 
so small that doubtless there have been processes of subdivision in 
the past. Recently, however, the dominant facts are the tenacity 
with which they are kept together, and the stability of the village 
community as a group of family units which have held this status 
for an indefinite period and intend to maintain it indefinitely in the 

This fundamental pattern has not depended on the extent of in- 
dependent proprietorship or tenancy. Though varying in different 
places, the general situation in that regard has been mixed. A very 
few farmers have owned enough land to rent some of it to others, 
and there has been a fairly large class who have owned all that 
they and their families have cultivated. The largest class includes 
those who have owned some land but have rented the rest in vary- 
ing proportions. A substantial minority have been entirely tenants 
with no land of their own. This situation has been facilitated by 
the fact that most holdings are split up; a family cultivates a num- 
ber of different plots scattered through the village lands, not a 
single consolidated "farm" in the American sense. 

In spite of the prevalence of tenancy, modern rural Japan is char- 
acterized by relative lack of a prominent rural landowning class in 
the social structure. At first sight this is surprising in view of her 
feudal history. The explanation lies largely in the fact that the 
samurai of the Tokugawa period were not a landed gentry in the 
European sense, but were attached to the court of the daimyo who 
owned the land and paid them "rice stipends" out of the proceeds. 
Continuity of status bound to specific holdings of land thus applied 
to the peasantry and the high feudal nobility, but not to the gentry 

In modem Japan there are landowners in the villages who are 
"gentlemen" rather than cultivators. But they are not decisively 
important to the social structure. Of the rural land owned by non- 
cultivators, town- or city-dwelling landlords probably hold a larger 
proportion. A certain prestige seems to attach to landownership as 
compared to other sources of income, but by no means a decisive 
one when compared to China or "county" England. On the whole, 
owners of rural land tend to merge with the larger middle class of 


people of business and professional status, which, though much 
smaller and weaker, is very similar to our own in basic social char- 

The most distinctive feature of rural Japanese social organization, 
which it shares with the rest of the society, is the family council. 
The most important structural implication of this is the solidarity 
of a considerable number of household units which are related by 
kinship on both the paternal and maternal sides, though the former 
tends to predominate. All major decisions— such as the purchase or 
sale of land, marriage of a child, unusual steps in education, a new 
business venture— must be referred to the family council. The pres- 
tige of seniority or other high status works eflFectively in attaining 
unanimity within the family council. 

Through the mechanism of the family council, kinsmen whose 
places of residence have become scattered are kept close together 
in mutual support. Property is managed in the light of common 
interest. The most promising youths of the various collateral lines 
may be picked for united backing in getting higher education or in 
a business venture. In particular the branches of rural families that 
have migrated to the cities are kept closely bound to relatives in 
their native villages. This pattern has certainly done a great deal to 
preserve the older patterns of life in the urban population and to 
slow up the process of social change which urbanization inevitably 
sets in motion. Finally it should be noted that the system of family 
councils produces an interlocking network of overlapping kinship 
groups. There is a slightly different council for each household. 
Members who are central for one will be peripheral for another. 
This seamless web binds every individual in a very tight system of 
traditional obligations. 

On top of this peasant base in preindustrial Japan was erected a 
highly stratified class system based on rigid primogeniture and 
continuity of kinship groups in their hereditary status. The family 
council system and the sharp subordination of the individual have 
been at least as marked on this level as on that of the peasantry. 
The two most important elements of this higher structure were 
the daimtjo nobility and the samurai gentry. 

The most important features of these older upper classes for the 
understanding of modern Japan account both for the surprising lack 
of resistance to "modernization" in the Meiji period, and for certain 
peculiar features of the society which emerged as a result. The Toku- 


gawa regime was a unique kind of feudal dictatorship. Though 
built up on a decentralized feudal structure of society, it did not in 
fact put the daimyo class in a very firm position in the total society, 
largely because the principle of the regime was that of divide and 
rule. The "inner lords" ( fudai daimyo ) who were directly integrated 
with the regime were made so heavily dependent on it that their 
position was inherently weak. At the same time they were set over 
against the "outer lords" {tozama) who were kept impotent by ex- 
clusion and isolation from each other. The initiative for the restora- 
tion came from the latter; but the situation did not encourage a new 
equilibrium on a feudal basis. Having upset the delicate balance of 
the Tokugawa regime itself, they set up a highly centralized struc- 
ture in which the socially dominant classes and the government 
were bound up closely with each other. 

The samurai class, as noted above, were in a slightly different 
position, the dominant characteristic of which was their lack of 
independent roots in the land and the local community, with cor- 
responding direct dependence on the daimyo to whom each was 
bound by ties of personal loyalty. One consequence was sharp dif- 
ferentiation in the power and wealth of different samurai. The most 
prominent and powerful were those who held positions of trust and 
influence at the courts of outstanding daimyo, especially the outer 
lords. In the restoration these men were in fact more influential 
than the daimyo themselves, though each acted in his lord's name. 
Already they constituted a kind of higher civil service group. 

With the success of the political overturn it was natural that the 
nobility— including the kuge or court nobility— should be amalga- 
mated with these ambitious and influential samurai to form a new 
centralized national nobility. Outside their traditional loyalty to 
their particular daim^yo the samurai had no vested interest to bind 
them to their local community. The position of the daimyo was 
weak, so it did not prove very difficult to deprive them of their 
special feudal status, to buy out their rights, and set up almost 
overnight one of the most highly centralized political structures of 
modem times. 

One additional important group was involved. In the absence of 
modern technology, transportation, and communications, there had 
been little organization of production in Japan beyond the handi- 
craft level. But, as is common in such societies, an upper class with 
considerable wealth and everything that was to be found in the 


capital of a centralized regime in Yedo had produced a situation 
favorable to a considerable growth of mercantile trade and finance. 
This was further favored by the long period of internal peace of 
the Tolcugawa regime. As a result mercantile houses of very con- 
siderable wealth and extensity of interests grew up. Even the 
daimyo, especially the outer lords, engaged in manufacturing and 
commerce— at first surreptitiously, then openly. 

Here was an extreme example of such a new "bourgeois" class 
having to fit into the interstices of the existing social structure. 
"Feudal" Japan was dominated by aristocratic classes of the type 
which idealized the military virtues and a corresponding code of 
honor and looked with extreme contempt on the merchant and 
tradesman. Traditionally even the humble peasant ranked higher in 
the social scale than the merchant. In fact considerable wealth and 
influence developed, but in a setting which promoted maximum 
dissatisfaction with the existing regime. 

The wealthier merchant classes thus were natural allies of the 
rebelhous elements and played a prominent part in financing and 
otherwise facilitating the restoration. They were rewarded by ad- 
mission to the new national aristocracy, with seats in the House of 
Peers, patents of nobility for many of the most prominent, and a 
general tendency to intermarry and fuse with the older families. 
This, however, was very difiPerent from the "bourgeois revolutions" 
which took place in much of Europe. In various respects the older 
aristocratic groups remained dominant; it was their values and pat- 
terns of life which set the principal tone for the new Japan. Im- 
portant as the mercantile elements were as the direct vehicle of 
Japan's economic modernization, it was only for brief periods, as in 
the 1920's, that they acquired anything like the upper hand. 

Japan thus made the transition to modernization with minimum 
immediate disturbance of her preindustrial social structure. The 
peasant base remained essentially intact. The old upper classes 
faced greatly altered conditions, but on the whole as a group 
remained in the top positions of prestige, wealth and power. The 
military values and code of the samurai had an opportunity for a 
new field of expression in the form of the armed forces of a modern 
nation, supported by a nationalistically tinged system of universal 

With these older patterns and values there also remained intact 
the Japanese family system with its rigid system of obligations 


subordinating all individual interests to those of family units. 
Through long centuries of conditioning by a hierarchical social 
system, these patterns of subordination of the individual to his 
larger family, of the young to the old, of women to men, shaded 
almost imperceptibly into a subordination of people of lower to 
those of higher status in a highly crystalized class system, and of 
general predisposition to accept legitimate authority. The imperial 
institution— master symbol of this highly hierarchized and integrated 
system— not only remained intact but was also exalted to a new 
position of prestige which was exploited systematically by the new 
ruling group. 

The dynamic significance of this older component of Japanese 
social structure is greatly heightened by its exceedingly close inte- 
gration with the magico-religious tradition of Shinto. It is important 
to understand the radical difference of this from the Christian tra- 
dition in its relation to social obligations. The rather sharp segre- 
gation of spiritual from temporal affairs which is characteristic of 
the Occident is unknown to Japan. From the highest pinnacle of 
government in the person of the emperor to the humblest house- 
hold, virtually every status has at the same time a magico-religious 
and a secular aspect. The obligations of everyday social life are not 
merely derived ultimately from religious authority, they are im- 
mediately and directly ritual obligations. The pressure to con- 
formity which inheres in every well-integrated system of social 
relationships is greatly heightened by this situation as long as 
general acceptance of the whole pattern of Shinto remains un- 

While much of ordinary social obligation in Japan carries a 
directly sacred character unknown to Occidentals, at the same time 
it involves an attitude toward these sacred sanctions quite different 
from our own. The Western emphasis is on the individual's own 
responsible conscience; social pressures are minimized and submis- 
sion to them is felt to be unworthy. Our concept of moral heroism 
idealizes the person who stands up for his convictions against 
others and against tradition. The predominant feeling of the indi- 
vidual who transgresses his obligations is that of guilt— while that 
of others is one of moral indignation. 

In Japan the emphasis is quite different. Obligations are not im- 
posed by a principle in wliich one "believes" but by specific acts of 


oneself or others in traditionally defined situations, or by the ac- 
cepted patterns of one's status. "Responsibility" is the willingness 
to accept the implications of these obligations and carry them out 
regardless of personal cost. The individual's own emotional reaction 
to transgression is shame that the honor due to his status is be- 
smirched, while that of others is that he has disgraced the group with 
which he is identified— the consequences are not personalized in 
his own character. Moral idealism is to take responsibility in the 
above sense, not to stand out for principles. Moral conflict is a 
matter of being caught between conflicting obligations, not of con- 
flict between principle and pressure of practical necessity as it is 
predominantly with Occidentals. 

This mode of incidence of sacred sanctions in a "moral" context 
is an indispensable background for understanding Japanese behav- 
ior in the situations presented by the social structure. Though 
highly formalistic it is a system characterized by a moral rigor in 
many respects greater than in Western societies. 

There is every reason to believe that the rigor is so great that, 
even apart from the special insecurity introduced by the conse- 
quences of Westernization, it does not operate without severe strains 
on most individuals. Whatever these may be there is no doubt that 
they are intensified by the juxtaposition with radically different 
Occidental values. 

There is a good deal of evidence that, with all its outward sta- 
bility, the Tokugawa system had been accumulating tensions over 
a long period and in fact was far from completely static. However 
that may have been, the new society was inherently dynamic. It not 
only grew rapidly in population, in industrial organization and pro- 
ductive facilities, in foreign trade and political prestige— emerging 
as the only Oriental unit in the system of great powers— but it also 
underwent a rapid and drastic internal social transformation. Many 
of the tensions generated by this internal change were certainly 
expressed in heightened nationalistic feeling and thus formed the 
popular basis of Japanese expansionism. 

The new regime speedily created a highly centralized organi- 
zation into which all the most influential social elements were 
drawn. Second only to consolidation of its own power, it was dedi- 
cated to a program of swift modernization of the country through 
adoption of Western patterns of organization and technology, both 


industrial and military. The combination of centralization and 
modernization set the fundamental pattern of those aspects of recent 
Japanese society which most closely resemble the West. 

Very early there was established a system of universal education 
following the Continental European model. Schools on all levels 
were organs of the state. Teachers of even the village schools were 
appointed and controlled by the prefectural governments. Funda- 
mental policies were determined by the Ministry of Education in 
Tokyo, which closely supervised both prefectural agencies and 
local schools. On the higher levels an important immediate objec- 
tive was the training of a civil service after the Continental model. 
The primary entry to that civil service was through attainment of 
academic distinction in the universities, particularly the Imperial 
University of Tokyo. Once on the ladder a very strict merit system 
prevailed. For a considerable period, however, the class balance 
was not upset very seriously; considerations of status and wealth 
were so important in controlling access to higher education that in 
fact sons of the higher groups predominated. 

Industrial development, to an extent quite unfamiliar in the 
Anglo-Saxon world, was conducted in direct collaboration between 
the business firms and the state, which supervised and subsidized. 
Conditions generally favored the rise to power of a relatively small 
number of large firms with widely distributed holdings and inter- 
ests. The top financial control of these firms remained in the hands 
of family groups, the famous Zaibatsu, which were organized and 
governed in traditional Japanese fashion through family councils. 
New talent indeed was brought into these families from time to 
time through the adoption of able young men of humble origin— 
often through marriage to a daughter. But lower down, with steady 
expansion of the scale of operations, there was increasing need for 
technical and administrative personnel too numerous to fit into this 
traditional pattern. Here also the tendency was to organize the 
firms bureaucratically, to recruit, relatively regardless of origin, from 
able, well-trained graduates of the institutions of higher education, 
and to open to talents opportunities for a career that might lead far. 

Rapid expansion of industry led to growth of cities even more 
pronounced in their concentration than in other industrial coun- 
tries. To these cities flocked the surplus population of the rural 
areas. There was opportunity for rise in status to a degree unknown 
to a relatively static, predominantly rural society. Urban conditions 


and exposure to Western cultural influences undermined in many 
elements the traditionalism and familistic solidarity of the older 
rural population, and this even began to have repercussions in the 
rural areas themselves. Individualism on the Western model seemed 
to be— and indeed was— making great strides in Japan. To be sure, 
the country was governed largely by an aristocracy headed by a 
rather antiquated type of emperor, but this was not so very differ- 
ent from several European countries. 

In two respects, however, even on this level there was an impor- 
tant difference from Europe, to say nothing of the United States. 
In the first place, even in the cities large elements of the population 
clung tenaciously to the old patterns of organization. Not only small 
retail shops, but also innumerable manufacturing processes were 
carried on in households by family units working together much as 
peasant families work. Such units were bound together by family 
ties with each other and with peasant units in country villages. 
Within the limits of the pattern of primogeniture, children remained 
with the family. Unless numbers were too large, hired help was 
virtually taken into the household or slept on the work premises. As 
an observant European writer remarked, the Japanese working class 
resisted proletarization to an extraordinary degree.^ It is not inap- 
propriate to refer to very large elements of them as an "urban 
peasantry." With all this went a tenacious clinging to many old 
Japanese customs and patterns of life such as type of house, kimono, 
and the like. Too rapid acquisition of Western habits was undoubt- 
edly checked by the low income levels of the masses— in turn a func- 
tion of the swift increase of population. 

In the second place, the very resistance to the spread of indivi- 
dualistic and directly competitive patterns served to accentuate 
certain strains in the society which presumably were present already 
in considerable degree. In its contrast with Western types of indi- 
vidualism, social scientists tend to assume that a strong system of 
group solidarity— subordination of the individual to the family, for 
instance— protects and supports the individual in such a way that 
breakdown of this solidarity intensifies insecurity. There can be no 
doubt of the strength of Japanese group solidarity, especially in the 
family, but its relation to the security of the individual seems to be 
the reverse of that usually assumed. Instead of protecting the indi- 

2 Emil Lederer and Emy Lederer-Seidler, Japan in Transition ( New Haven, 


vidual member and giving him security, the tendency, according to 
his status, is to push him into relations outside the group where he 
functions as a representative of the entire group rather than as an 
individual. He carries responsibility for its good name in the above 
sense. His success reflects credit on the group and is admired by 
them; but if he fails he disgraces the whole group and he is blamed 
and punished by their disapproval or in extreme cases by ostracism. 

An inevitable tendency of Westernization in Japan has been to 
widen progressively the area of competitive relationships. This is 
just as characteristic of a merit system of promotion within large- 
scale organizations as it is of the "individualistic" competition of 
businessmen in the market. Participating in such competition as a 
representative of his family and other groups, the Japanese experi- 
ences heightened insecurity that has been an important factor in 
the remarkable dynamic energy evidenced in the speedy transfor- 
mation of his nation. But at the same time all this increases a level 
of anxiety which already must have been relatively high. The con- 
sequences to the individual of failure to succeed are so serious that 
he must not fail; in the extreme case his position becomes com- 
pletely intolerable. 

The growth of nationalistic sentiment in Western countries has 
been associated with rising levels of insecurity resulting from the 
breaking up of the old traditional structures and sohdarities of pre- 
industrial society. In Japan the very refusal of these structures to 
break up has contributed to the increase of insecurity. This certainly 
has much to do with the susceptibility of many of the urban ele- 
ments to a nationalistic appeal, since other aspects of the situation 
were favorable. 

In Japan, however, nationalism has assumed a special character 
through its relation to the religio-magical traditions of State Shinto. 
These have provided a pattern for a definition of the situation which 
was ideally suited to symbolize and canalize nationalistic sentiment. 
The imperial restoration not only symbolized the religio-political 
unity and solidarity of the nation, but also provided the rationale, 
in the increasingly prevalent and official interpretation, of giving 
the Japanese nation as a whole a f)Osition of special prominence 
among other nations. In Western nations— short of the Nazi revolu- 
tion—violent nationalism was a kind of pseudo-religion in sharp 
conflict with the universalistic elements of Christianity. In Japan it 
could fuse with a major indigenous tradition to give a peculiarly 
powerful sacred sanction to the goal of military aggrandizement. 


Nevertheless, to many Western observers the development of 
Japan seemed to be following broadly the path of "liberal indus- 
trialism" which in time might be expected to overcome both mass 
tendencies toward nationalism and the influence of older patterns 
inherited from the earlier background in the upper groups. There 
probably was much wishful thinking in this judgment. But in the 
absence of another set of factors it might have been much more 
nearly correct than events proved it to be, 

A major aspect of Japanese feudalism, as of its Western counter- 
part, lay in the position of prestige and privilege occupied by a spe- 
cifically military class— the samurai. Considering this background, 
the part played by the feudal classes in the overturn, and the cir- 
cumstances, it is not surprising that strengthening and moderniza- 
tion of the armed forces was one of the cardinal early poHcies of 
the new regime. In implementing this policy, however, there were 
two particularly significant features of the new Japanese military 
structure. First the European system of universal military service 
was adopted. Second, officers were to be selected and promoted by 
a relatively rigid merit system. In so rigidly aristocratic a society 
with a military background it is remarkable that a decision, ap- 
parently deliberate, was taken that an oflBcer did not need to be a 
"gentleman" in the sense in which that was true of practically all 
European armies at the time. 

Conscription meant that army service was the most important 
connection the ordinary village youth had with the big outside 
world— and the considerable majority of conscripts have remained 
rural, with many more from small towns. He had this experience 
under rigidly controlled conditions highly favorable to indoctri- 
nation. Moreover, through the veterans' associations the army 
reached down into the daily life of the village. Along with the 
schools, this provided a channel of propagandistic influence over 
the masses of a population already predisposed to accept authority. 
This influence was exceedingly powerful. Only a government in 
which army and civil authority saw eye to eye could command this 
double channel— and that, given the tone of the Japanese armed 
forces, was apt to mean one in which the military predominated. 

In the circumstances, especially with the background of Shinto 
nationalism, it was almost inevitable that this power over the masses 
should be used in an anti-Western sense. By their very constitution 
the armed forces were bound peculiarly to the imperial institution 
with its embodiment of what was distinctively Japanese in a tradi- 


tional sense— to say nothing of the pronounced ethnocentrism of the 
myth of the Sun Goddess. On top of this, however, the predomi- 
nantly rural composition of the army was bound to put a premium 
on a type of reaction well known in the Western world: that of 
simple rural folk against the corruption and wickedness of the 
cities. The profound tensions which the process of urbanization and 
industrialization was inevitably creating in Japanese society could 
very readily become polarized about the rural-urban antithesis— 
secondarily about the antithesis of a wealthy exploiting class (the 
predominantly urban Zaibatsu ) and the poor and struggling masses. 
In this situation the army naturally became the champion both of 
traditional Japanese values and of the people, who after all were 
mostly peasants, against the moneyed interests and against the 
corrupting influence of the West. 

In this setting considerable tension would certainly have devel- 
oped anyway. Conceivably an urbane and cosmopolitan aristocracy 
in full control of the armed forces might have held it in line. This 
did not happen. The free road to talent in the armed forces opened 
the opportunity for a new type of element to rise to the top within 
the army. These no longer were the aristocratic Choshu samurai 
of earlier days, but men of humble origin, sons of small town busi- 
nessmen or even peasants. They were proud of their professional 
records and of the fact that they could rise and compete with their 
erstwhOe betters. At the same time they were caught up in a cause. 
They were the champions of the little man and of the best reli- 
giously sanctioned traditions of old Japan against the destructive 
influence of the foreigner. They, predominantly, were the "milita- 
rists" who upset the more stable equilibrium of Japanese affairs at 
home and who initiated the career of conquest abroad which was 
the primary dynamic precipitating factor of Japan's clash with the 

The rise of this new group culminated in the early 1930's. It was 
not surprising that, given the situation, the whole Japanese social 
structure should swing over into their control and accept the path 
of conquest on which they were bent. They acted in the name of 
the emperor; this gave them a formal legitimacy far stronger than 
in most societies. They appealed to sentiments which went very 
deep in the masses of the population. Finally the whole structure- 
government, business, and the dominant social classes— had become 
very highly centralized. There was such a close integration of inter- 


ests that, despite severe internal conflicts between different ele- 
ments, the structure as a whole virtually had to follow the lead of 
the element which was able to gain the highest political control. 
The only kind of opposition which could have hoped to be effective 
would have been so disruptive to the system that it would have 
dragged down its leaders with the rest. Only when faced with 
disastrous and imminent defeat in war could the break come. 

The Japanese society which was caught up into the war thus 
was undergoing a highly dynamic process of change and was in a 
state of unstable equilibrium. The fundamental components of 
that situation certainly are still present. The question of the future 
is in large part the question of what are the principal possibilities 
of re-structuring which the new situation will allow, and what kinds 
of furtlier dynamic change may be expected under the conditions 
which probably will exist. Obviously there are so many unknown 
factors that there can be no question of an attempt at "prediction." 
The best that can be done is to make a contribution to clarification 
of the problems which will have to be faced by all who deal with 
policy toward Japan. This includes the humblest American citizen 
who by his vote and expressed opinion exercises influence even as 
an individual. 

Clearly there is no formula by which measures taken in the im- 
mediate future— short of extermination— could remove, certainly 
and permanently, the possibility of revival of a Japanese militarism 
which might become a future threat to American security. There 
seem to be three major possibilities of the direction Japanese social 
development might take. All three have the potentiality either of 
making the Japanese more amenable to adjustment in a peaceful 
world order, or of their again becoming truculently aggressive and, 
in the absence of adequate repressive controls, acquiring the means 
to make themselves unpleasant. In all three cases, the alternative 
that works out will depend substantially on the international envi- 
ronment of Japan rather than on her internal development alone. 

The first of the three major possibilities is reversion to an essen- 
tially preindustrial agrarian society in which an overwhelming 
majority are peasants. In this case the structures with higher inte- 
grative functions might vary within a wide range of alternatives. 
Secondly, it is conceivable that power should be secured by a revo- 
lutionary regime of the communist type which, within a relatively 
short period, would drastically liquidate the older traditional pat- 


terns. What might emerge from such a situation in positive terms 
is exceedingly difficult to foresee. Finally, it is possible that the 
fundamental trend of development since the Meiji restoration should 
be continued, but that the nationalistic-militaristic element should 
be prevented from predominating. Then the general evolution 
should take the direction of approximation to the Western "demo- 
cratic" type of society with emphasis on either its individualistic or 
its socialistic version. 

Certain fundamental features of the situation, relevant to selec- 
tion among these possibilities, can be taken for granted. First is the 
fact that, whatever the losses resulting from the war and from im- 
mediate postwar economic and social chaos, the fundamental fac- 
tors making for rapid increase in population would still operate. 
The only immediate alleviations of this tendency to be expected 
involve the incidence of higher death rates from disease, malnu- 
trition, and the like, and the kind of decline in birth rates associated 
with chaotic social conditions in which levels of insecurity are ex- 
ceedingly high. Even if such conditions should lead to an absolute 
decline the prospect is that with restoration of order and a mini- 
mum of security the upward tendency would be resumed imme- 
diately—unless held in check by very nearly absolute limitations of 

Secondly, there may be a very serious crisis in the economic 
sphere— not merely a cyclical depression— caused by the interrup- 
tion of foreign trade and the cutting oflF of the islands from the 
foreign raw materials and markets on which the economy has been 
dependent. The problems of this crisis are beyond the scope of 
this paper. The present concern is only with its social consequences. 
It will mean a considerable period of economic contraction, lower- 
ing of standards of living, diminishing fields of individual opportu- 
nity, and insecurity. 

Finally it may be assumed that there will be rather thorough 
demilitarization. This includes not only removal of armaments and 
certain potential facilities for their production, but also complete 
demobilization of the armed forces, prohibition of the renewal of 
universal military service, and elimination of the privileged consti- 
tutional position of the service ministries. The principal specific 
social mechanisms which in prewar Japan were instrumental in 
tipping the balance in favor of aggressive militarism will thus be 


eliminated from the picture— at least for as long as control is 

The combination of the first two factors is certain to mean that 
there is a heightened state of general insecurity and, for a consid- 
erable period, a contracting rather than expanding field of oppor- 
tunity for the majority of individuals. There also will be an initial 
revulsion from the regime, and to some extent from the values 
which are associated with the disastrous defeat. Whether this is of 
long-run significance will depend on the subsequent development 
of the situation. The case of Germany after the last war should not 
be forgotten. 

If Japan is permitted to stew in her own juice after demilitariza- 
tion by being virtually cut off from international trade and cultural 
relations, it will almost certainly serve to consolidate the traditional 
indigenous patterns more firmly than ever. The urban and indus- 
trial sector of the society has provided the main focus of the forces 
making for their weakening, and this sector would be diminished 
greatly in relative significance. Millions of urban people would be 
forced back into the villages and absorbed into the traditional kin- 
ship groupings. 

Such a situation would produce many explosive tensions, starting 
with sheer overcrowding of the land. Perhaps the most important, 
however, would result from the system of inheritance. The power- 
ful tradition of primogeniture would inhibit subdivision of hold- 
ings; but at recent rates of population growth— which, as noted, are 
likely to be resumed— there would be no satisfactory status available 
in the rural community structure for the surplus— to say nothing of 
food. The system certainly could give here and there, but it is 
sufficiently rigid so that one of two major outcomes is probable. On 
the one hand the lid may be kept on; i.e., discipline might be main- 
tained in terms of the old patterns and the explosive tensions mas- 
tered. The result of these pressures then would be to bring popula- 
tion into balance, presumably on a partly preindustrial basis with 
reduced rate of increase through higher death rates rather than 
fewer births. Presumably some reduction through postponement of 
marriage is also possible. On the other hand the lid may blow off 
and some kind of an internal revolution occur which would break 
up the traditional peasant system. 

Which of these possibilities is actually realized and what the 


consequences may be will not depend mainly on the social structure 
of the masses of the population, but on the higher integrative struc- 
tures. In this respect the situation is such that a stable situation in 
a sense favorable to the United States is not likely. A foundation 
for a revival of aggressive tendencies would probably be laid which 
could be kept in check only by an external system of political order 
so strong that any challenge to it would be suicidal. 

Tensions within the masses will be so powerful that only a rela- 
tively strong higher structure will presumably be able to master 
them. It is of the first importance that the basic traditions of Japa- 
nese society are strongly hierarchical and authoritarian. Any appeal 
to order is certain to include this aspect in a prominent place. In 
detail it is impossible to predict just what the outcome might be. 
With the relative disappearance of the armed forces, of the indus- 
trial organizations of the Zaibatsu and their like, the highly cen- 
tralized structure of Japan might give way and local elements rise 
to considerably greater prominence. Whatever the emphasis as 
between centralization and decentralization, hierarchy and authority 
seem certain to be prominent. The dominant groups, whoever they 
are, wall certainly have to depend largely on force for maintenance 
of their position. This will favor crystallization of a rigidly stratified 
social system on the pattern of old Japan, with reestablishment of 
aristocratic groups. It is also very difficult to see how it could avoid 
reinstating the militaristic values among these dominant tone-setting 
groups. It should be remembered that the genesis of these values 
was not primarily in nationalistic ambitions against the outside 
world, but in the internal situation in Japan, in the interest of ad- 
vantage over feudal rivals in the chronic civil wars and of mainte- 
nance of a position of dominance over a demilitarized and hence 
politically impotent peasantry. Hence the outcome might well be 
a Japan impotent to make war in the modern sense— even more so 
in the coming atomic age. A Japan genuinely peaceful in sentiment, 
however, cured of the combination of a propensity to resort to force 
with an oversensitive suspicious attitude toward others, would seem 
to be very unlikely. It would be a Japan which, given another Meiji 
restoration to unify and modernize the nation, and a favorable ex- 
ternal situation, could be expected almost automatically to embark 
on another career of conquest. Such a Japan would offer a maximum 
of resistance to integration with the cosmopolitan community of 


world society, since maintenance of its precarious internal equili- 
brium would depend on keeping intact a set of ideological and 
symbolic patterns continuous with those of old Japan, It would 
have to insulate itself from the cultural currents of the world. 

Particularly in the earlier stages, however, the equilibrium of such 
a system would be very precarious. Almost certainly the masses 
would be seething with unrest. The relative weakness of the middle 
class has been one of the most important facts of modem Japan, 
relative to other industrial countries. This middle class has been 
small numerically and lacking in cultural, political, and economic 
autonomy, and has been very open to influence from above. It has 
offered, for instance, practically no resistance to being taken along 
in the militaristic-nationalistic wave of the last generation. If and 
when the highly centralized structure on which the integration of 
the nation has depended is weakened sufficiently, the way may well 
be open for a revolutionary movement. 

If internal disorders once get under way— which is quite likely 
after withdrawal of occupation forces— there will probably be 
some kind of struggle for power. Thorough demobilization will have 
operated to cancel the advantage of the groups previously domi- 
nant. A small, well-organized group might be able to seize and con- 
solidate power. Under the circumstances it is overwhelmingly prob- 
able that such a group would hold communist ideology and would 
have affiliations with the communists in Soviet Russia and North 

It should be remembered that the Russian Revolution did not 
take place in a maturely industrial country. In the first instance, its 
position was based on the discontent of the peasantry in an over- 
whelmingly agricultural country. In Japan too there exists much 
agrarian discontent which will be accentuated enormously by forc- 
ing so much of the urban population back onto the land. Moreover, 
in the nationalistic phase this has already had an anti-capitalistic 
animus against the Zaibatsu. This agrarian anti-capitalism and anti- 
urbanism can be exploited without too much difficulty in a radical 
rather than a conservative direction. Secondly, though the Japanese 
industrial worker has been far less proletarized than his Western 
brother and there has been no strong labor movement, there is no 
reason to believe that the mass of workers and "urban peasantry" 
would resist such a movement or would not indeed be strongly sus- 


ceptible to its propaganda. Russia in 1917 had no strong labor 
movement, whereas in Britain with a powerful and well-established 
trade unionism there is only a negligible communist movement. 

If such a revolutionary movement should gain control in Japan 
one inevitable consequence would ensue. The basic patterns of 
authoritarianism would not be eliminated but would be reincarnated 
in the new system. In Japan a radical dictatorship, as readily as a 
reactionary one, would find conditions relatively favorable. Most of 
the basic patterns of Japanese social tradition could be maintained 
despite radical changes in the system of ideological symbols. Two 
generations of relative Westernization certainly have gone far to lay 
the foundations of such a change. 

A conservative, traditionalist Japan would tend to isolation from 
the rest of the world as the only possible way of maintaining its 
system. A communist Japan, of course, would not do so. It would 
have natural allies on the continent of Eastern Asia. But in addition 
its consolidation as a system would be highly dependent on a 
return to industrialization and urbanization. In the Japanese case 
this is allied particularly closely with the question of foreign trade. 
Relations with the Soviet sphere of influence would open up pos- 
sibilities which do not exist in the older capitalist sphere. It could 
and probably would offer a prospect of hope to the Japanese masses 
which the traditionalist possibility could not. 

Just as Japan's underlying authoritarianism would not disappear 
but would reappear in another form in a communist system, so also 
her tendency to militarism probably would remain. It is of the 
first importance that modern Japanese militarism has not rested on 
aristocratic foundations but has developed deep roots in the masses 
of the people; the army itself is a popular organ of protest against 
the "interests." Preservation of this tendency is not in the least in- 
compatible with a communist system. If, as seems entirely possible, 
communism generally tends to an aggressive policy backed by force, 
a communist Japan would almost certainly play a prominent role. 

The third possibility of development is one that would bring 
Japanese society closer to the model of the Western democratic 
nations. The foregoing analysis indicates that this, of the three pos- 
sibilities, is the most difficult to effect and would require the most 
favorable— which presumably means the most carefully regulated- 
conditions. This is not only because there are serious factors of 
instability involved in such a development in any society, but also 


because of two types of specific features of the Japanese case. First, 
the immediate practical situation which must be expected is pecul- 
iarly unfavorable, and second, from a long-run point of view, the 
obstacles in the pre-Westernized Japanese society and the part of 
it which has survived are more formidable. 

If the development which came closest to begin the dominant 
trend in the 1920's is to go forward to a stage of relative stability, 
it is indispensable that conditions should favor the continual exten- 
sion of "individualism" in the fundamental sense. This is not incom- 
patible with the British Labour Party's kind of socialism. It means 
fundamentally a situation where the individual can become eman- 
cipated from the pressure of the particularistic group solidarities 
which have been so prominent in traditional Japanese society. It 
means that he must learn not only to take responsibility in the sense 
of preserving his group, but also to be responsible for independence 
from such group pressures, to value achievement as such, not merely 
as the enhancement of his family's (or nation's) prestige. 

The conditions of peasant society of the Japanese type are such 
that it is impossible for this type of value to become predominant. 
By far the most favorable conditions are those of the Westernized 
type of urban society with occupational roles of the type best exem- 
plified in modern industry. Therefore a situation is essential that 
places large masses of the population in a position where their fun- 
damental interests and security are bound up with further extension 
of this type of pattern. This condition cannot be given where the 
general field of opportunity is contracting. Opportunity for reason- 
able economic expansion along peaceful lines is an essential pre- 

A second fundamental prerequisite touches the higher integrative 
groups. Demilitarization, including elimination of the privileged 
position of the armed services, goes without saying. Also a definite 
change in the previous trend of centralization of the top integrative 
structure is very important. The monopoly position of the Zaibatsu 
families should be broken up and governmental subsidy to their 
firms eliminated. In many different fields governmental administra- 
tion should be decentralized and responsibility at lower levels built 

It seems highly undesirable, however, to attempt to secure these 
ends by means that are too abruptly revolutionary. Restoration of 
relative stability which can enhance security is essential to such a 


development. Conditions should be organized so as to weaken the 
older undesirable elements gradually rather than to eliminate them 
by violent action, since this would arouse a reaction which probably 
would endanger the whole policy. Above all conditions should aim 
at building up into a progressively stronger position those persons 
who have an important stake in a liberal system: professional and 
technical people, individuals with substantial administrative posi- 
tions either public or private, small and moderate businessmen, 
trade union leaders, and the like. 

It goes without saying that a major factor in tipping the balance 
of prewar Japanese development in the wrong direction was the 
system of repressive controls which inhibited the natural expression 
of many of the aspects of a movement of "liberalization," especially 
the control of "dangerous thoughts." Above all there must be reg- 
ular cultural and intellectual contact with the outside world so that 
the roles which are favored by the situation can become integrated 
with ideological and cultural factors. 

The above argument is not in any simple sense a defense of the 
imperial institution, of Shinto, and all the other things which demo- 
cratic people feel have been objectionable in Japan. It is hoped 
profoundly that the course of development will be such as progres- 
sively to weaken those elements and correspondingly to strengthen 
those which are more in line with democratic values. But the evi- 
dence of the above analysis does point to the conclusion that an 
attempt at drastic and sudden elimination of these things by action 
of the victors is not likely to produce the result desired. A demo- 
cratic society in the best sense cannot be produced by fiat; it has to 
grow relatively slowly through the influence of favorable conditions. 
Drastic intervention of the type so often advocated is likely to drive 
Japanese society into one of the two other alternatives discussed 

Perhaps the most important condition of a democratic direction 
of development in Japan is sufficient stability so that the forces 
which can effect the desired change have opportunity to operate 
steadily over a long enough period. Continuity with tlie situation 
which has brought Japan as far as she went before the war seems 
essential. There is no fundamental reason why that continuity 
should involve "selling out" the aims for which Americans fought— 
if it is combined with steady, responsible pressure to keep Japan on 
an even keel by preventing a revival of the tendencies that previ- 


ously interfered with this development. This means, above all, pre- 
vention of revival of the militaristic trend with a new position of 
privilege and prestige for the militaristic element, while keeping 
open the channels for outside cultural and ideological influence, and 
finally giving Japan economic opportunities sufficient so that the 
hope which is essential to embark on new ventures will not be lost. 


Certain Primary Sources and 
Patterns of Aggression in the 
Social Structure of the 
Western World 

The Problem of Aggression 
THE PROBLEM OF power and its control is not identical with that 
of aggression.^ Without any conscious intent on the part of one in- 
dividual or collectivity to gain at the expense of another, or even 
any unconscious disposition to do so, there would still be important 
sources of instability in the relations of individuals and social groups 
into which the use of power could and would play. There can, how- 
ever, be little doubt that the widespread incidence of aggressive 
tendencies is the most important single factor in the dangerously 
disruptive potentialities of power relationships; and if these could 

1 "Aggression" will here be defined as the disposition on the part of an indi- 
vidual or a collectivity to orient its action to goals which include a conscious or 
unconscious intention illegitimately to injure the interests of other individuals 
or collectivities in the same system. The term illegitimately deUberately implies 
that the individual or collectivity in question is integrated, however imperfectly, 
in a moral order which defines reciprocal rights and obligations. The universality 
of the existence of a moral order in this sense is a cardinal thesis of modem 
social science. This is not to say that world society constitutes one integrated 
moral order in this sense; on the contrary, the diversity of such orders is a pri- 
mary problem of integration, but it is not as such tlie problem of aggression. 
Thus friction and hostility arising from lack of mutual understanding or mere 
thoughtlessness or insensitiveness to the position of the other party are not as 
such acts of aggression, although aggressive dispositions become attracted to these 
situations as fields of expression perhaps more readily than any others, because 
they are easier to rationalize. 

The use of the term aggression here is thus narrower than in some psycho- 
logical, particularly psychoanalytic, discussions. In particular "self-assertion" 
the "drive to mastery"— for example, of a technical skill— without meaningful 
hostility to others, will not be treated as aggression. It will not be an issue in 
the present analysis to decide as to whether, on deeper psychological levels, ag- 
gression in the sense here meant, and nonaggressive self-assertion, or mastery, are 
fundamentally different or whether they derive from the same roots. On the 
level of social behavior the diflFerence is fundamental, and that is what matters 
in the present context. 


be notably lessened, the prospects of effective control would be 
correspondingly enhanced. 

Modern sociological and psychological analysis has greatly im- 
proved understanding of the factors and situations which produce 
aggressive dispositions. This understanding in turn carries vdth it 
the potentiality of devising and applying measures of deliberate 
control, although it is naive to suppose that control will follow 
automatically on knowledge of causes. Indeed the problem of utiliz- 
ing what knowledge we have for control is so complex that no 
attempt will be made to deal with it in this brief paper, which will 
be confined to sketching a few of the diagnostic considerations on 
which any program of control would have to be based. This is not 
to depreciate the importance of an action program, but is merely 
an application of the principle of the division of labor. It is better 
to do one thing reasonably well than to attempt too many things 
and do none of them well. 

All social behavior, including the "policies" of the most complex 
collectivities like nation-states, is ultimately the behavior of human 
beings, understandable in terms of the motivation of individuals, 
perhaps millions of them, in the situations in which they are placed. 
Therefore the psychological level of understanding of individual 
motivation is fundamental to even the most complex of mass phe- 
nomena. At the same time, however, the complications and modifi- 
cations introduced by the facts of the organization of individuals in 
social systems are equally crucial. If it were possible to arrive at a 
statistically reliable estimate of the average strength of aggressive 
tendencies in the population of a nation, it would by itself be worth- 
less as a basis of predicting the probability of that nation embarking 
on an aggressive war. The specific goals and objects to which these 
aggressive dispositions are attached, the ways in which they are 
depressed, deflected, projected, or can be directly expressed accord- 
ing to the forces which channel or oppose them, and the structure 
of situations into which they come— all these are equally important 
with any aggressive potential in general in determining concrete 
behavioral outcomes. Indeed they may be far more important to 
understand, since many of these factors in aggressive behavior may 
be far more accessible to control than are the ultimate reservoirs of 
aggressive motivation themselves. The present analysis therefore 
will be largely concerned with the social structuring of aggression 
in Western society, rather taking for granted that there is an ade- 


quate reservoir to motivate the familiar types of aggressive behavior. 

A few elementary facts about the psychology of aggression need, 
however, to be stated since they will underlie the analysis on the 
social level. There does not seem to be any very clear understanding 
of how far or in what sense aggressive dispositions in the sense here 
meant are inherited. It is, however, highly probable that there are 
very wide variations in hereditary constitution in this as in other 
respects and that the variations within any one ethnic population 
are far more significant than those between "races" or national 
groups. But whether on the individual or the group level, it is at 
least very doubtful how far anything like a human "beast of prey" 
by heredity exists. Ideas to that effect almost certainly contain far 
more projection and fantasy than solid empirical observation and 
analysis. Indeed there is much to be said for the hypothesis tliat 
aggression grows more out of weakness and handicap than out of 
biological strength. 

Far more definite and clear is the relation between aggression 
on the one hand and insecurity and anxiety on the other. Whatever 
the hereditary potential, and whatever it may mean, there is an im- 
mense accumulation of evidence that in childhood aggressive 
patterns develop when security in some form, mostly in human 
relationships, is threatened, and when realistic fears shade over 
into anxiety of the neurotic type. This is a very complex field and 
only a few points can be brought out here. 

Insecurity, as the term is used in psychology, certainly has a 
number of dimensions. One of the most important generalizations 
concerns the extent to which the specific patterning of reactions to 
insecurity is a function of the human relationships in which the 
child is placed rather than of its physical safety and welfare alone. 
One of the major human dimensions is unquestionably that of love 
or affection, which in most social systems centers on the relation- 
ship of mother and child. The absolute level of maternal affection 
is undoubtedly of fundamental significance, but equally so is its 
consistency. The withdrawal of love to which the child has become 
accustomed, or ambivalence, however deeply repressed, may have 
devastating effects. Similarly, relative distribution of affection be- 
tween siblings is important. Frustration through withdrawal, if not 
absolute low-level or absence, undoubtedly is normally reacted to 
with aggression. A common example is provided by the fantasies 


of children that they will die or commit suicide so the parents will 
be sorry for their maltreatment. 

Another major dimension of security touches expectations of 
achievement and of conformity with behavioral standards. Here 
two contexts seem to be particularly important as sources of anxiety 
and aggression. The first is the sense of inadequacy, of being ex- 
pected to do things which one is unable to achieve, and thus in- 
curring punishment or the loss of rewards. The second is the sense 
of unfairness, of being unjustly punished or denied deserved re- 
wards. In both cases the comparative context is fundamentally im- 
portant. Inadequacy is highlighted by the superior achievements of 
others with whom one feels himself to be in competition, and un- 
fairness almost always involves specific examples of what is felt to 
be unjust favoritism toward others. Again in both cases the consist- 
ency of the standards which are held up to the child and of adults 
in applying them is crucial. In this general context the sense of 
inadequacy or injustice may generate aggressive impulses, on the 
one hand toward those who are held to have imposed such unfair 
standards or applied them unfairly, and on the other hand toward 
more successful rivals or beneficiaries of unfair favoritism. 

Two further facts about these structured patterns of aggression in 
childhood are particularly important. First, they are rooted in 
normal reactions to strain and frustration in human relations at the 
stages of development when the individual is particularly vulner- 
able, since he has not, as some psychologists say, yet attained a 
strong ego-development. But unless they are corrected by an ade- 
quate strengthening of security, these reactions readily embark on 
a cumulative vicious circle of "neurotic" fixation. The child who 
has reacted with anxiety and aggression to inadequate or ambiva- 
lent maternal love builds up defenses against re-exposure to such 
frustrating situations and becomes incapable of responding to genu- 
ine love. The child who has felt inadequate in the face of expecta- 
tions beyond his capacity to fulfill becomes neurotically resistant 
to stimuli toward even the achievements he is capable of and ag- 
gressive toward all attempts to make him conform. Unless re-equili- 
bration takes place in time, these defensive patterns persist and 
form rigid barriers to integration in a normal system of human rela- 
tionships. The result is that the individual tends either to react 
aggressively, without being able to control himself, in situations 


which do not call for it at all, or to overreact far more violently 
than the situation calls for. 

The second important fact is a result of the conflict of the aggres- 
sive impulses, thus generated and fixated, with the moral norms 
current in the family and society and the sentiments integrated with 
them. In childhood the persons in relation to whom such afiEects are 
developed are primarily the members of the child's own immediate 
family. But solidarity with them and aflFection toward them is a pri- 
mary ethical imperative in the society. Indeed it is more than an 
ethical imperative, since these attitudes become "introjected" as 
part of the fundamental attitude system of the child himself. The 
hostile impulses therefore conflict both with his own standards and 
sentiments and with the realistic situation, and cannot be overtly 
expressed, except under strong emotional compulsion, or even toler- 
ated as conscious thoughts. They tend therefore, to be dissociated 
from the positive, socially approved attitude system and "repressed." 
This repressed attitude system, however, persists and seeks indirect 
expression, especially in symbolic form. This may be purely in fan- 
tasy, but there is one particularly important phenomenon for the 
present context, namely displacement on a "scapegoat." If the 
father or mother or sibling cannot be overtly hated, a symbolically 
appropriate object outside the circle of persons who must be loved 
is chosen and gratification of the impulse indirectly secured. Pre- 
cisely because his aggressive impulses are repressed, the person is 
unaware of the fact of displacement and by rationalization is con- 
vinced that this is a reasonable reaction to what the scapegoat has 
done or is likely to do if given a chance. There can be no doubt but 
what an enormously important component of group hostility has 
this psychological origin and character. 

The Kinship System 
"Western society" is a very complex entity with many different 
variations on national, regional, cultural, class, and other bases. 
There are, nevertheless, a small number of structurally distinctive 
features of it which, though unevenly distributed in different parts, 
are of such strategic significance for the whole that they can be 
singled out as presenting in the most accentuated form the prob- 
lems which are crucial to the whole. These are, above all, those 
features associated with the development of the modern type of 
urban and industrial society, which is far more highly developed in 


the modern Western world than anywhere else or at any other 

In attempting to analyze the genesis and channeling of aggression 
in modern Western society, four aspects or structural-functional con- 
texts appear to stand out as of paramount importance, and will be 
discussed in order. They are: First, the kinship system in its context 
in the larger society, since this is the environment in which the prin- 
cipal patterns in the individual personality become crystallized. 
Second, the occupational system, since this is the arena of the most 
important competitive process in which the individual must achieve 
his status. Third, the fundamental process of dynamic change by 
which traditional values and sentiments are exposed to a far more 
drastic and continuing disintegrating influence than in most soci- 
eties. And fourth, the set of institutional structures through which 
aggression becomes organized in relation to a small number of 
structurally significant tensions, rather than diffused and dissipated 
in an indefinite variety of different channels without threatening 
the stability of the social system as a whole.^ 

The dominant feature of the kinship system of modern Western 
urban and industrial society is the relatively isolated conjugal family 
which is primarily dependent for its status and income on the oc- 
cupational status of one member, the husband and father. This role, 
however, is segregated from the family structure itself, unlike the 
role of the peasant father. Work is normally done in separate prem- 
ises, other members of the family do not cooperate in the work 
process and, above all, status is based on individual qualities and 
achievements which specifically cannot be shared by other mem- 
bers of the family unit. 

It follows that sons on maturity must be emancipated from their 
families of orientation and "make their own way in the world" 
rather than fitting into a going concern organized around kinship. 
Determination of occupational status by family connections threat- 

2 Modem Japan and the Early Roman Empire are the two cases outside this 
sphere which have gone farthest in approaching the modem Western situation. 

3 The study which comes closest to the present attempt in approach and 
analytical method is Clyde Kluckhohn's Navaho Witchcraft, Papers of the Pea- 
body Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 
(1944) 22: no. 2, (see also the author's review, Amer. J. Sociology [19461 
51:566-569). Naturally because of the vast extent of Western society, the facts 
must be determined on a basis of broad general impressions rather than on 
specific field observation. This does not, however, invalidate the comparability 
of the two analyses. There is a very important sense in which nationalism in the 
Westem world is the functional equivalent of Navaho witchcraft. 


ens the universalistic standards so important to the system as a 
whole. Daughters become overwhelmingly dependent on their 
marriage to the right individual man— not kinship group— for their 
status and security. In practice their parents cannot greatly help 
them— marriage becomes primarily a matter of individual responsi- 
bility and choice. 

This kinship system in its larger setting involves a variety of in- 
fluences on the child which favor high levels of insecurity structured 
in relatively definite and uniform ways and correspondingly a good 
deal of aggression. In the first place, the affective orientations of 
the child are concentrated on a very small number of persons, par- 
ticularly since the family size is likely to be small. Of adult ob- 
jects, particularly in the early years, the mother overwhelmingly 
predominates, because the care of household and children tradi- 
tionally falls to her, and because the father is normally away from 
the household, at work most of the child's waking hours. This creates 
a very high degree of sensitivity to the emotional attitudes of the 
mother and of vulnerability to anything disturbing about them. To 
reinforce this, most associations outside the immediate family in 
the neighborhood play group and school are those in which the child 
cannot take security of love and status for granted but is placed in 
competition with others either directly or for adult approval by 
the teacher and parents. The fact that his mother loves him does 
not solve his problems; he must stand on his own feet. Furthermore 
doing well in such situations is highly valued in the societ>% and this 
attitude is apt to be shared by the mother, so that her own love and 
approval tend to become contingent on the child's objective per- 
formance rather than unconditional as it is in many societies.'* This 
love is therefore more acutely needed than in most societies and 
more precarious. The situation is favorable to a high level of anxiety 
and hence of aggression. But because of the very acuteness of the 
need for affection and approval, direct expression of aggression is 
more than normally dangerous and hence likely to be repressed. 

On top of this situation come factors which are differential be- 
tween the sexes and not only intensify insecurity but have much to 
do with the direction aggressive tendencies take. Our kinship situ- 
ation, it has been noted, throws children of both sexes overwhelm- 

^ See Mead, Margaret, And Keep Your Powder Dry, N. Y., William Mor- 
row, 1942, for a discussion of the pattern of "conditional love" and its conse- 


ingly upon the mother as the emotionally significant adult. In such 
a situation "identification" in the sense that the adult becomes a 
"role model" is the normal result. For a girl this is normal an natu- 
ral not only because she belongs to the same sex as the mother, 
but because the functions of housewife and mother are immediately 
before her eyes and are tangible and relatively easily understood 
by a child. Almost as soon as she is physically able, the girl begins 
a direct apprenticeship in the adult feminine role. It is very notable 
that girls' play consists in cooking, sewing, playing with dolls, and 
so on, activities which are a direct mimicry of their mothers'. But 
the boy does not have his father immediately available; in addition 
—especially in the middle classes, but increasingly perhaps in the 
lower— the things the father does are intangible and difficult for a 
child to understand, such as working in an office, or even running 
a complicated machine tool. 

Thus the girl has a more favorable opportunity for emotional 
maturing through positive identification with an adult model, a fact 
which seems to have much to do with the well-known earlier ma- 
turity of girls. The boy on the other hand has a tendency to form 
a direct feminine identification, since his mother is the model most 
readily available and significant to him. But he is not destined to 
become an adult woman. Moreover he soon discovers that in cer- 
tain vital respects women are considered inferior to men, that it 
would hence be shameful for him to grow up to be like a woman. 
Hence when boys emerge into what Freudians call the "latency 
period," their behavior tends to be marked by a kind of "compulsive 
masculinity." They refuse to have anything to do with girls. "Sissy" 
becomes the worst of all insults. They get interested in athletics and 
physical prowess, in the things in which men have the most primi- 
tive and obvious advantage over women. Furthermore they become 
allergic to all expression of tender emotion; they must be "tough." 
This universal pattern bears all the earmarks of a "reaction forma- 
tion." It is so conspicuous, not because it is simply "masculine 
nature" but because it is a defense against a feminine identification. 
The commonness with which "mother fixation" is involved in all 
types of neurotic and psychotic disorders of Western men strongly 
confirms this. It may be inferred also that the ambivalence involved 
is an important source of anxiety— lest one not be able to prove his 
masculinity— and that aggression toward women who "after all are 
to blame," is an essential concomitant. 


One particular aspect of this situation is worthy of special atten- 
tion. In addition to the mother's being the object of love and identi- 
fication, she is to the young boy the principal agent of socially sig- 
nificant discipline.^ Not only does she administer the disciplines 
which make him a tolerable citizen of the family group, but she 
stimulates him to give a good account of himself outside the home 
and makes known her disappointment and disapproval if he fails to 
measure up to her expectations. She, above all, focuses in herself 
the symbols of what is "good" behavior, of conformity with the ex- 
pectations of the respectable adult world. When he revolts against 
identification with his mother in the name of masculinity, it is not 
surprising that a boy unconsciously identifies "goodness" with 
femininity and that being a "bad boy" becomes a positive goal. It 
seems that the association of goodness with femininity, and therewith 
much of our Western ambivalence toward ethical values, has its 
roots in this situation. At any rate there is a strong tendency for 
boyish behavior to run in anti-social if not directly destructive 
directions, in striking contrast to that of pre-adolescent girls. 

As would be expected if such a pattern is deep-seated and has 
continued for several generations, it becomes imbedded in the psy- 
chology of adults as well as children. The mother therefore secretly 
—usually unconsciously— admires such behavior and, particularly 
when it is combined with winning qualities in other respects, re- 
wards it with her love— so the "bad" boy is enabled to have the best 
of both worlds. She may quite frequently treat such a 'Tbad" son as 
her favorite as compared with a "sissy" brother who conforms with 
all her overt expectations much better. 

It should be particularly noted that this is not the functionally 
dominant pattern of the adult masculine role. It combines an em- 
phasis on physical prowess with a kind of irresponsibility. But the 
adult man predominantly gains his place by using his mind rather 
than his brawn and by accepting responsibility, not by repudiating 
it. There must therefore, in a large majority of boys, be a further 
transition as they grow to maturity; they must come to value other 
hues of achievement and accept responsibilities. It is to be presumed 
that this transition in turn is not accomplished without further re- 
pressions. At least this "bad boy" pattern did permit a direct outlet 
of aggression in physical terms, though to be sure this could not be 

f* In this she is followed by a teacher who in the United States is almost 
always a woman until quite a late stage in the process of schooling. 


directed against mothers. But the discipHne of most adult mascuHne 
roles sharply limits that, although a sublimated form in competitive 
activities is still possible. It is however probable that this is one 
important source of a reservoir of latent aggression susceptible of 
mobilization in group antagonisms, and particularly war, because 
it legitimatizes physical aggression as such. 

With girls the situation is different, but not intrinsically or nec- 
essarily more favorable. In childhood a girl has the opportunity to 
mature primarily through identification with the mother and hence 
introjection of the mother role pattern. But girls later face a situa- 
tion of realistic insecurity which profoundly disturbs the continuity 
of transition to adulthood in this role. In many societies marriages 
are arranged by the older generation who are primarily concerned 
with providing good mothers for their grandchildren, and the qual- 
ities of this pattern are then a positive asset. But increasingly in 
Western society a girl must seek her fundamental adult security— 
which, inherently in the structure of the situation, depends over- 
whelmingly on her relation to the one particular man she marries— 
by direct appeal to the personal sentiments of men— and she must 
do so in competition with the other girls of her age group. Com- 
pared with the masculine problems of becoming established in a 
satisfactory occupational career line, it is a more severe type of com- 
petitive insecurity, because so much depends on the one step which 
is almost irrevocable and the average age of marriage is such that 
the occupational prospects of a suitor are necessarily still indefinite. 
In addition to this, she must compete for the personal favor of a 
young man who, in the nature of the influences to which he has 
been exposed, tends to be deeply ambivalent about the primary 
role his future wife is going to play, hence severely handicapped in 
making rational decisions on such matters.^ 

The undoubted predominant tendency in this situation is for 
the plane of competition in the process of selection of marriage part- 

* An additional feature of this ambivalence not touched above concerns 
attitudes toward sex. The fact of the incest taboo plus the intensity of emotional 
concentration on the mother makes for strong inhibitions against sexual attach- 
ments, since the sexual relation to the mother becomes the ideal of love. The 
revolt against this attachment in the "bad boy" pattern thus \ery readily draws 
the attitude toward sex into the polarity, and sexual interests become "bad" 
but attractive. Indeed frequently the hedonic aspect of sex becomes tinged with 
aggression; sexuality is, so to speak, a means of taking revenge on women for 
their maltreatment of boys as children. It is notable that the sentimentally 
idealized stereotype of the "good" woman is strikingly asexual. It may be pre- 
sumed that this stereotype is largely the product of masculine fantasies. 


ners to be deflected markedly from attraction to "good wives and 
mothers" (and husbands and fathers) toward an accent on "ro- 
mantic love," certain rather immature types of sexuality, and "gla- 
mor"— the exploitation of certain specifically feminine assets of 

Psychologically speaking, this situation implies two very funda- 
mental sources of frustration for the growing girl. The first is the dis- 
covery of what is, in tlie relevant sense, "masculine superiority," the 
fact that her own security hke that of other women is dependent on 
the favor— even "whim"— of a man, that she must compete for mas- 
culine favor and cannot stand on her own feet. This is a shock be- 
cause in her early experience her mother was the center of the world 
and by identifying with her she expected to be in a similar position. 
Secondly, it turns out that the qualities and ideals which were the 
focus of her childhood identification and personality development 
are not the primary asset in solving her fundamental problem, are 
even to a degree a positive handicap. The severity and relative 
abruptness of this transition cannot but, in a large proportion of cases, 
be a source of much insecurity, hence the source of a high level of 
anxiety and of aggressive impulses. The primary source of this 
aggression is the sense of having been deceived, of being allowed 
to believe that a certain path was the way to security and success 
only to find that it does not seem to count. The aggression, it may 
be presumed, is directed both against men and against women: the 
latter because they are the primary "deceivers," they are not what 
they seem to be; tlie former because it is they who seem to have 
forced upon women this intolerable fate of having to be two or 
more incompatible things. This undoubtedly underlies the wide- 
spread ambivalence among women toward the role of motherhood, 
which is a primary factor in the declining birth rate, as well as 
toward sexual relations and the role of being a woman in any other 
fundamental respect.'^ 

The upshot of the above analysis is in the first place that the 
typical Western individual— apart from any special constitutional 

"^ In this and other previous discussions, emphasis has been deliberately 
placed on the negative aspect of the situation, the strains and their disruptive 
consequences. This is because present interest is in sources of aggression. The 
positive side is not evaluated; hence the reader should exercise great care not to 
take this discussion as a general appraisal of the emotional qualifies of the West- 
em kinship system. Furthermore it should go without saying that these patterns 
have a very unequal incidence in the population, ranging from virtual negli- 
gibility to pathological intensity. 


predispositions— has been through an experience, in the process of 
growing to adulthood, which involved emotional strains of such 
severity as to produce an adult personality with a large reservoir of 
aggressive disposition. Secondly, the bulk of aggression generated 
from this source must in the nature of the case remain repressed. 
In spite of the disquieting amount of actual disruption of family 
solidarity, and quarreling and bickering even where families are not 
broken up, the social norms enjoining mutual affection among fam- 
ily members, especially respectful affection toward parents and 
love between spouses, are very powerful. Where such a large reser- 
voir of repressed aggression exists but cannot be directly expressed, 
it tends to become "free-floating" and to be susceptible of mobili- 
zation against various kinds of scapegoats outside the immediate 
situation of its genesis. 

In addition to establishing the basis for the existence of a large 
reservoir of repressed aggression, the above analysis tells us some- 
thing of the directions which its indirect expression may be likely 
to take and the "themes" of grievance which are most likely to 
arouse aggressive reactions. In the first place. Western society is 
one in which most positions of large-scale responsibility are held 
by men. In this connection the cult of "compulsive masculinity" 
cannot but be of significance. Western men are peculiarly suscep- 
tible to the appeal of an adolescent type of assertively masculine 
behavior and attitude which may take various forms. They have in 
common a tendency to revolt against the routine aspects of the pri- 
marily institutionalized masculine role of sober responsibility, me- 
ticulous respect for the rights of others, and tender affection toward 
women. Assertion through physical prowess, with an endemic tend- 
ency toward violence and hence the military ideal, is inherent in 
the complex and the most dangerous potentiality. 

It is, however, not only masculine psychology which is important 
in this respect. Through at least two channels the psychology of 
women may reinforce this tendency. First, there is undoubtedly 
widespread if repressed resentment on the part of women over 
being forced to accept their sex role and its contradictory compo- 
nents. This is expressed in an undercurrent of aggression toward 
the men with whom they are associated, which, given the latter's 
hypersensitiveness toward women's attitudes toward them, can be 
expected to accentuate the pattern of compulsive masculinity. 

But this feminine resentment against men is only one side of an 


ambivalent structure of attitudes. The situation by virtue of which 
women have to accept an inferior position in crucial respects leads 
to an idealization of precisely the extreme type of aggressive mas- 
culinity. It is quite clear that Western men are peculiarly depend- 
ent emotionally on women and therefore feminine admiration of 
them will powerfully stimulate any pattern of behavior which can 
evoke it.^ 

The childhood situation of the Western world also provides the 
prototypes of what appear to be the two primarily significant themes 
or contexts of meaning in which it is easiest to evoke an aggressive 
reaction, since these are the contexts in which the people of the 
Western world have been oversensitized by the traumatic experi- 
ences of their childhood. 

The first of these is the question of "adequacy," of living up to 
an acceptable standard of achievement or behavior. There is a tend- 
ency to be hypersensitive to any suggestion of inferiority or in- 
capacity to achieve goals which have once been set. This in turn is 
manifested in two ways of primary significance for present pur- 
poses. On the one hand the peoples of Western society are highly 
susceptible to wishful and distorted beliefs in their own superiority 
to others, as individuals or in terms of any collectivity with which 
they are identified, since this belief, and its recognition by others, 
tends to allay anxiety about their own adequacy. On the other hand, 
since such a belief in superiority has compulsive characteristics, 
those who have to deal with such people find it "hard to take," even 
when the former have a highly realistic attitude. But it also stimu- 
lates a vicious circle of resentment on the part of those who, shar- 
ing the same hypersensitivity, are treated as inferior. It is, in other 
words, inordinately easy for either individual or group relationships 
in the Western world to become defined as relations of superiority 
and inferiority and to evoke aggressive responses, if the assumption 
of superiority is, even justly, questioned, or if, again even justly, 
there is any imputation of inferiority. 

The second major context of meanings is that of loyalty, honesty, 
integrity, justice of dealing. Both in competition with others and 
in relation to expectations which he has been allowed to build up, 
the Western child has usually had the traumatic experience of 
disillusionment, of being "let down." The boy has not been allowed 

8 The indications are that this feminine admiration, not to say adultation, 
of the "heroic" "He-man" pattern played a major role in the spread of the Nazi 
movement in Germany. 


to emulate the ideal of his mother; when he has been "good," he has 
been punished rather than rewarded for it, and his "bad" brother 
has been preferred. The girl has found out both that her mother as 
a woman is an inferior being and that to be a "good woman," that is 
a mother, does not pay. These experiences are the prototype of a 
certain hypersensitivity to the question of whether others can be 
trusted either as individuals or collectivities. In sex relations there 
is a tendency to be compulsively preoccupied with the fidelity of 
the partner. In general there is an overreadiness to believe that the 
other fellow will attempt to deceive or injure one. Naturally, since 
this hypersensitivity is associated with repressed aggression, it is 
very easy for the aggressive impulse to be projected on the other 
party to the relation, producing the "paranoid" pattern of over- 
readiness to impute hostile intentions where they do not exist, or to 
exaggerate them grossly where they do. In its extreme form the 
rest of the world is apt to be seen as mainly preoccupied with plot- 
ting to destroy one or one's group. The Western tendency is to be 
"thin-skinned," unable to "take it," when frustrations must be faced 
and to place the blame on others when most of it belongs at home. 

The Occupational System 

The other most fundamental institutional structure of modern 
Western society, the occupational system, can for present purposes 
be dealt with much more briefly— especially since a good deal has 
been anticipated in dealing with kinship, the two being so closely 
interdependent. Its most essential feature is the primacy of func- 
tional achievement. This implies the selection of people on the 
basis of their capacities to perform the task, of innate ability and 
training, not of birth or any other antecedent element of status. It 
further implies the segregation of the technical role from other 
aspects of the incumbent's life, most of which are in the nature of 
the case governed by other types of standards. This takes the form 
in the type case of physical segregation and of segregation of per- 
sonnel and activity, so that it involves a distinct system of relation- 
ships. Finally, it implies a peculiar type of discipline in that any 
type of personal feeling which might come in conflict wdth these 
relationships is subordinated to the requirements of the technical 
task, which are often highly exacting and often narrowly specialized. 

There is an inherently competitive dimension of the occupational 
system. Even when competitive victory is not as such a major direct 


goal, but rather is subordinated to functional achievement as such, 
a selective process, which among other things governs access to 
opportunity for all the higher achievements, is inherent in the sys- 
tem. A man has to "win" the competition for selection, often re- 
peatedly, in order to have an opportunity to prove his capacity for 
the higher achievements. The inevitable result of the competitive 
and selective processes is the distribution of the personnel of the 
system in a relatively elaborate hierarchy of prestige which is sym- 
bolized and expressed in manifold ways. 

It is furthermore relevant that in the aggregate, particular roles, 
and still more organizations, undertake functions which are alto- 
gether unknown in simpler societies. Men are more frequently sub- 
jected to the discipline and strains of more exacting skills. But even 
more important are two other consequences. One is the involvement 
of people in systems of social relationship of very great complexity 
which, because of their newness and rapidly changing character, 
cannot be adequately governed by established and traditionalized 
norms. The other is the fact that explicit responsibility, in that 
great consequences hinge on the decisions and competence of indi- 
viduals, is a far greater factor than in simpler societies. In view of 
what we know of the deep-seated tendencies to dependency and 
the psychological difficulties involved in assuming responsibility, 
this is a fact of prime importance. 

When these features of the occupational system are brought into 
relation to the personality structure discussed above, two classes of 
conclusions touching the problem of aggression appear to follow. 
The first set concerns the relation to the general levels of aggression 
in the society, the second the channeling of what exists into difiFer- 
ent actual and potential types and directions of expression. 

Though it is difficult to arrive at more than a very rough judg- 
ment, it seems clear that the balance is rather heavily on the side 
of increasing rather than reducing the levels of insecurity and hence 
of anxiety and aggression— the foundations of which are laid in the 
process of socialization in the family. It is true that the wide field 
for competitive activity provides some outlets which are construc- 
tive for sublimating aggression by harnessing it to the motivation of 
constructive achievement, and at the same time "winning." But the 
other side of the medal is the condemnation of probably a consider- 
ably larger number to being "losers"— since success in such a system 
is to a considerable degree inherently relative— and thereby feeding 


any tendency to feel unduly inadequate or unjustly treated. At the 
same time, participation in the occupational system means subjec- 
tion to a severe discipline. It means continual control of emotions 
so that repression and dissociation are favored rather than counter- 
acted.^ Perhaps most imjiortant of all, however, the competitive 
process is governed by a rather strict code which is very often in 
conflict with immediate impulses. In particular it is essential to be 
a "good loser" and take one's misfortunes and disappointments with 
outward equanimity. This reinforces the need to repress feelings 
of resentment against unfair treatment, whether the feelings are 
realistically justified or not, and hence their availability for mobili- 
zation in indirect channels of expression. 

The above considerations apply primarily to men since they are 
the primary carriers of the occupational system. Conversely, how- 
ever, by the segregation of occupational from familial roles, most 
women are denied a sense of participation with their men in a com- 
mon enterprise. Moreover, it is in the occupational sphere that the 
'TDig things" are done, and this drastic exclusion must serve to in- 
crease the inferiority feelings of women and hence their resent- 
ment at their condemnation by the accident of sex to an inferior 

In respect to the channeling of aggression as distinguished from 
its absolute level, two things are of primary importance. First, if 
there are no reasons to suppose that, on the average, absolute levels 
are lowered, at the same time few direct outlets are provided for 
most types of aggressive impulse. Hence the general need for in- 
direct channels of expression, particularly by displacement on scape- 
goats, is reinforced by experience in this sphere of life. 

Secondly, it is above all in the occupational sphere that the pri- 
mary institutionalization of the basic themes of the above discussion 
takes place— childhood is an apprenticeship for the final test which 

^ This discipline includes adherence to sharply objective standards in the 
face of the strains growing out of the emotional complexity of the system of 
social relationships of the work situation, and the additional strains imposed by 
high levels of responsibility for those who have to assume it. In addition, the 
mobility which is inherent in such a system has two further significant conse- 
quences. Status is inherently insecure, in tliat it cannot be guaranteed inde- 
pendently of performance— to say notliing of the results of economic fluctua- 
tions in causing unemployment and the like. Then technological and organiza- 
tional change, as well as promotion and job change of the individual, are also 
inherent and make it difficult to "settle down" to a complete emotional adjust- 
ment to any one stable situation; it is necessary to make continual new adjust- 
ments with all the attendant emotional difficulty. 


the adult world imposes on man. Ability to perform well and hold 
one's own or excel in competition is the primary realistic test of 
adult adequacy, but many, probably the considerable majority, are 
condemned to what, especially if they are oversensitive, they must 
feel to be an unsatisfactory experience. Many also will inevitably 
feel they have been unjustly treated, because there is in fact much 
injustice, much of which is very deeply rooted in the nature of the 
society, and because many are disposed to be paranoid and see 
more injustice than actually exists. To feel unjustly treated is more- 
over not only a balm to one's sense of resentment, it is an alibi for 
failure, since how could one succeed if he is not given a chance? 

Thus the kinship and the occupational systems constitute from the 
present point of view a mutually reinforcing system of forces acting 
on the individual to generate large quantities of aggressive impulse, 
to repress the greater part of it, and to channel it in the direction of 
finding agencies which can be symbolically held responsible for 
failure and for deception and injustice to the individual and to those 
with whom he is identified. ^"^ Perhaps the most important mitiga- 
tion of the general situation which the working of the occupational 
system brings about is that occupational success may do much to 
reduce the pressure toward compulsive masculinity. But the diffi- 
culty here is that sufficient success to have this effect is attainable 
only to a minority of the masculine population. Lack of it would 
seem to have the opposite effect, and this is just as much a conse- 
quence of the system as the other. 

The Structure of Group Hostility 

The occupational system of the Western world is probably the 
most important institutional "precipitate" of a fundamental dynamic 
process which Max Weber has called the "process of rationaliza- 
tion." Through it, as well as other channels, this process has had a 
fundamental part in structuring attitudes in the Western world 
which is relevant to the problem of aggression and hence calls for a 
brief discussion. 

1^ If anything, probably the kinship system has to absorb more strains 
originating in the occupational system than vice versa. In any case the effect of 
these strains is to accentuate the sources of aggression inherent in the kinsfiip 
system rather than to mitigate them. This would appear to operate above all 
through tlie influence on children of parents who themselves are showing the 
effects of tension. In so far as a man ' takes out" the frustrations of his occupa- 
tional situation on his wiie she may in turn "take it out" on the children. 


The progress of science and related elements of rational thought 
is the core and fundamental prototype of the process. Science is an 
inherently dynamic thing. Unless prevented by influences extrane- 
ous to it, it will continually evolve. Moreover, unless science is 
hermetically insulated from the rest of social life, which is manifestly 
impossible, this dynamic process of change will be extended into 
neighboring realms of thought, for example, philosophical and reli- 
gious thought, and in the direction of practical application wherever 
rational norms play a significant role in the determination of action. 
Hence through this dynamic factor, a continuing process of change 
is introduced, both into the primary symbolic systems which help 
to integrate the life of a society, and into the structure of the situ- 
ations in which a large part of the population must carry on their 

The significance of this arises in the first place from the fact that 
there is much evidence that security in the sense relevant to this 
analysis is to a high degree a function of the stability of certain ele- 
ments of the socio-cultural situation. This is true especially because 
certain aspects of the situations people face are involved in the 
actual and, as they feel it, prospective fulfillment of their "legitimate 
expectations." These expectations are, even apart from any neurotic 
distortions, apt to be highly concrete so that any change, even if it 
is not intrinsically unfavorable, is apt to be disturbing and arouse a 
reaction of anxiety. It should above all be noted that technological 
change inevitably disrupts the informal human relationships of the 
members of working groups— relationships which have been shown 
to be highly important to the stability and working efficiency of the 
participants.^^ On the other hand, the corresponding process of 
change on the level of ideas and symbols tends to disrupt estab- 
lished symbolic systems which are exceedingly important to the 
security and stability of the orientation of people. 

The weight of evidence seems to be that the amount of such 
change to which even the best-integrated personalities can adapt 
without the possibility of upsetting the smooth functioning of per- 
sonality is rather limited; but in proportion as there is a neurotic 
type of insecurity, there tends to be a compulsive need for stabihty 
in these respects. The capacity to adapt to both types of change is 
a function of "emotional maturity," and the above analysis has 

i^Cf. Roethlisberger, F. J., and Dickson, William J., Management and the 
Worker; Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1941. 


shown that there must be serious hmitations on the levels of emo- 
tional maturity which most members of Western society can have 
attained. There seems, therefore, to be no doubt that the continu- 
ing incidence of dynamic change through the process of rationali- 
zation is one major source of the generalized insecurity which char- 
acterizes our society. As such it should also be a major factor in 
maintaining the reservoir of aggressive impulses at a high level. It 
is a factor so deep-seated in our societ)' that it must be expected to 
continue to operate on a major scale for the foreseeable future; only 
profound changes in the whole social situation which would invali- 
date the greater part of this analysis would produce a situation 
where this would not be true. 

It is not, however, the significance of the process of rationaliza- 
tion, as a source of quantitative addition to the reservoir of aggres- 
sion, which is most important, but rather the way it operates to 
structure the direction of its actual and potential expression. It is 
a major factor in the polarization of attitudes in the society, espe- 
cially as they are distributed between different groups in the popu- 
lation in such a way as to focus anxiety and aggression on a single 
structured line of tension. 

It must be remembered that the incidence of the process of 
rationalization is highly uneven in the social structure. With respect 
to any given level of traditionalized values, symbols, and structuring 
of situations, there are always relatively "emancipated" and rela- 
tively traditional groups and sectors of the society. Certain of the 
emancipated groups, like the best of the professions for instance, 
become relatively well institutionalized so that the dynamic process 
of which they are agents is not so disturbing to them. They always, 
however, contain at least a fringe, if not more, where insecurity is 
expressed in compulsively distorted patterns of extreme emancipa- 
tion which are highly provocative to the more traditionalized ele- 
ments, which lead into a vicious circle in proportion as elements of 
both groups are compulsively motivated. 

The process is, however, always tending to spread into the rela- 
tively traditionalized areas of the society and thereby tending to - 
threaten the security of the population elements most dependent on 
traditionalized patterns. Partly these elements already have serious 
insecurities and are compulsively dependent on traditionalism; 
partly change introduces new insecurities. In either case, the result 
is to stimulate what has elsewhere been called a "fundamentalist 
reaction," a compulsively distorted exaggeration of traditional 


values and other related patterns.^- This above all attaches to those 
elements of culture and society which are not so readily and in the 
same sense susceptible of rationalization as are the areas of science, 
technology, and administrative organization— namely, religion, 
family, class attitudes, the informal traditions of ethnic culture, and 
the like, where non-logical symbolic systems are heavily involved. 

The reverse side of the exaggerated assertion of these traditional 
patterns is the aggressive attack on the symbols which appear to 
threaten them, science as such, atheism and other antireligious as- 
pects of liberal rationalism, the relaxation of traditional sex morality 
—especially in the larger urban communities and in "bohemian" 
circles— political and economic radicalism, and the like. The com- 
pulsive adherents of emancipated values on the other hand tend to 
brand all traditional values as "stupid," reactionary, unenlightened, 
and thus a vicious circle of mounting antagonism readily gets 
started. This polarization in fact corresponds roughly to structured 
differentiations of the society, with latent or more or less actual con- 
flicts of interest as between rural and urban elements, capital and 
labor, upper and lower class groups, and the like, which feed fuel 
to the flames. 

It is above all important that the values about which the funda- 
mentalist pattern of reaction tends to cluster are those particularly 
important in the constitution and symbolization of informal group 
solidarities— those of families, social class, socio-religious groups, 
ethnic groups, and nations. Many of these solidarities are seriously 
in conflict with the explicit values of the Western world which 
largely stem from the rationahstic traditions of the Enlightenment,^^ 
They are hence particularly difficult to defend against rationalistic 
attack. Since, however, they are of fundamental emotional impor- 
tance, the consequence more frequently than not is their "defensive" 
assertion rather than their abandonment. This very difficulty of 
rational defense when rational values are in fact accepted, favors 
this context as a field for the mobilization of repressed aggression, 
since it is in a state of bafflement that people are most likely to react 
with "unreasonable" aggression. 

These circumstances seem to go far toward explaining the strik- 

1- Cf. Parsons, Talcott, "Some Sociological Aspects of the Fascist Move- 
ments," Social Forces, Nov. 1942, reprinted as Chapter VII above. Also: "The 
Sociology of Modem Anti-Semitism' in Jews in a Gentile World, Graeber & 
Britt Teds.]; N. Y.; Macmillan, 1942. 

13 Cf. Gunnar Myrdal's discussion of "Tlie American Creed" in An Ameri- 
can Dilemma; N. Y., Harpers, 1944 (2 vols.). 


ing fact that aggression in the Western world tends to focus so 
much on antagonisms between soHdary groups. Some of these 
groups are, to be sure, those growing out of the formal and utili- 
tarian structure of modern society, like the conflict of business and 
the labor unions. Probably more important, however, are the lines 
of conflict which cut across these groups, particularly those between 
religious and ethnic groups within nations and, above all, the con- 
flict of nationalisms. Group conflict seems to be particularly signifi- 
cant because on the one hand solidarity with an informal group, 
the appeal of which is to "infrarational" sentiments, is a peculiarly 
potent measure for allaying the neurotic types of anxiety which are 
so common; on the other hand an antagonistic group is a peculiarly 
appropriate symbolic object on which to displace the emotional 
reactions which cannot be openly expressed within one's own group 
lest they tlireaten its solidarity. In this whole context, it is peculiarly 
appropriate that groups be available in regard to which the ambi- 
valent structure of emotions in relation to the t\vo dominant themes 
discussed above can be expressed. The "out-group" should, that 
is, be a group in relation to which one's own group can feel a com- 
fortably self-righteous sense of superiority and at the same time a 
group which can be plausibly accused of arrogating to itself an 
illegitimate superiority of its own. Correspondingly it should be a 
group with strong claims to a position of high ethical standing of 
its own which, however, can plausibly be made out to be essen- 
tially specious and to conceal a subtle deception. The Jews have 
in both these connections furnished almost the ideal scapegoat 
throughout the Western world. 

Latent aggression has thus been channeled into internal group 
conflicts of various sorts throughout the Western world: anti- 
semitism and anti-laborism, and anti-negro, anti-Catholic, and 
anti-foreigner feeling are found in this country. There are, how- 
ever, potent reasons why nationalism should be the most important 
and serious focus of these tendencies. The first is the realistic basis 
of it. The organization of our civilization into nation-states which 
are the dominant power units has been a crucial realistic fact of the 
situation. Above all, in the chronic tendency to resort to war in 
crisis situations the loyalty to one's government has been to be in 
one sense the ultimate residual loyalty, the one which could claim 
any sacrifice no matter how great if need be. 


At the same time it is highly significant that as between the fun- 
damentaHst and the emancipated poles of modern attitude struc- 
ttire, nationalistic loyalty as such is largely neutral. It is, however, 
a particularly suitable focus for fundamentalist sentiments in ac- 
cusing their opponents of a specious sincerity since it does tend to 
be an ultimate test of altruism and sincerity. The "foreigner" is, 
moreover, outside the principal immediate system of law and or- 
der; hence aggression toward him does not carry the same oppro- 
brium or immediate danger of reprisal that it does toward one's 
"fellow-citizen." Hostility to the foreigner has thus furnished a 
means of transcending the principal, immediately threatening group 
conflicts, of achieving "unity"— but at the expense of a less imme- 
diate but in fact more dangerous threat to security, since national 
states now command such destructive weapons that war between 
them is approaching suicidal significance. 

Thus the immense reservoir of aggression in Western society is 
sharply inhibited from direct expression within the smaller groups 
in which it is primarily generated. The structure of the society in 
which it is produced contains a strong predisposition for it to be 
channeled into group antagonisms. The significance of the nation- 
state is, however, such that there is a strong pressure to internal 
unity within each such unit and therefore a tendency to focus ag- 
gression on the potential conflicts between nation-state units. In 
addition to the existence of a plurality of such units, each a poten- 
tial target of the focused aggression from all the others, the situ- 
ation is particularly unstable because of the endemic tendency to 
define their relations in the manner least calculated to build an 
effectively solidary international order. Each state is, namely, highly 
ambivalent about the superiority-inferiority question. Each tends 
to have a deep-seated presumption of its own superiority and a 
corresponding resentment against any other's corresponding pre- 
sumption. Each at the same time tends to feel that it has been un- 
fairly treated in the past and is ready on the slightest provocation 
to assume that the others are ready to plot new outrages in the 
immediate future. Each tends to be easily convinced of the right- 
eousness of its own policy while at the same time it is overready to 
suspect the motives of all others. In short, the "jungle philosophy" 
—which corresponds to a larger element in the real sentiments of 
all of us than can readily be admitted, even to ourselves— tends to 


be projected onto the relations of nation-states at precisely the point 
where, under the technological and organizational situation of the 
modern world, it can do the most harm. 


In conclusion, to forestall misunderstanding, it is well to call 
explicit attention to some of the limitations of the analysis just de- 
veloped. That it is specifically limited to analyzing sources of ag- 
gression and their channeling has already been stated. It needs, 
however, to be repeated that the more positive sides are deliberately 
omitted. It is thus not in any sense a complete or balanced pic- 
ture of the dynamic psychological balance of Western society, even 
so far as such a picture could be drawn in the light of present 
knowledge and on a comparable level of generality and abstrac- 
tion. Above all, it should not by itself be taken as an adequate basis 
for any suggestions of remedial action. By omitting consideration 
of the positive aspects, it has precisely neglected the principal as- 
sets on which any such program would have to rely. It is confined 
to a specifically limited diagnostic function. Its results must be com- 
bined with those of other studies before they have any practical 
value beyond this. 

This analysis has been couched in terms of a very high level 
of "ideal-typical" abstraction. It has presumed to deal with the 
social structure and psychological dynamics of the Western world 
as a whole, in full consciousness of the fact that there are and have 
been innumerable ranges of variation within this enormously com- 
plicated sociocultural system, many of which are of prime signifi- 
cance to any practical purpose. 

In the first place, within any one national society this analysis 
applies unequally to different elements of its population. In fact it 
applies most completely and directly to the urban, middle-class 
elements, those which have been most heavily involved in the con- 
sequences of the industrial revolution. Substantial modifications 
need to be made in dealing with rural populations. The same is 
true of the highest elite groups, particularly those whose position 
was firmly institutionalized before the major social changes of the 
industrial era took place. This is especially true of the older Euro- 
pean hereditary aristocracies. It is even necessary to make substan- 
tial modifications for the case of social groups which have so low a 
status that their being in the major competition for places on the 


general scale of prestige cannot be realistically supposed, thus for 
large parts, at least, of the "proletarian" elements. These are only 
among the most conspicuous of the qualifications, each of which 
would have important consequences for the psychological reaction 
patterns of the relevant groups. 

Similaily, most of the "secondary" complications of the system of 
dynamic relationships under consideration have perforce been ne- 
glected. It is a fact of the first importance that, for instance, in 
American adult culture there is a fundamentally important institu- 
tionalization of "adolescent" values which is in continual competi- 
tion with the main system. 

Finally, it is quite clear that there are extremely important na- 
tional variations in the relevant patterns. To a considerable degree 
the analysis has been focused on American conditions. Their greater 
familiarity favors this. But it is not necessarily a source of serious 
bias, since in certain respects the United States represents a closer 
approach to the "ideal type" of structure which is of prime strategic 
significance for the whole Western world— significant because the 
fundamental patterns of industrial society have been less modified 
by powerful institutional complexes which were present in the 
pre-existing society. 

France, for instance, has developed less far along these lines than 
most Western countries, and has integrated more of the older soci- 
ety with the new tendencies. There seems, for instance, to have been 
far less isolation of the immediate conjugal family there than in 
this country. 

Certain of the consequences most important to the practical situ- 
ation have appeared most highly developed in Germany and greatly 
accentuated under the Nazi regime.^^ The peculiarly virulent nation- 
alistic aggressiveness of Nazi Germany certainly cannot be ade- 
quately explained in terms of the factors analyzed in the present 
paper. It depended on other elements which were either peculiar 
to Germany, or relatively far more important there than for instance 
in this country. This is true of the strongly authoritarian character 
of the father-son relationship, and of the much more sharply subor- 
dinated position of women in Germany. There was also a much 

1* Cf. Parsons, T., "Democracy and Social Structure in Pre-Nazi Germany," 
/. Legal and Political Sociology, Nov. 1942, and "The Problem of Controlled 
Institutional Change," Psi/chiatry (1945) 8:79-101, both reprinted here. See 
also Ericson, Eric Homburger, 'Hitler's Imagery and the Dream of German 
Youth," Psychiatry (1942) 5:475-493. 


more rigidly formalistic and hierarchical occupational system there, 
and conditions were much more favorable to the development of a 
strongly militaristic variety of nationalism. 

Nevertheless, difiFerences of this sort do not invalidate the anal- 
ysis presented here. They are, however extremely deviant, variations 
on the same fundamental themes. Much of the general foundation 
of the situation has been in fact common to all the major nations 
of the Western world where the process of industrialization and 
rationalization has taken strong hold. It is a question, not of a right 
and a wrong analysis, but of the appropriate adaptation of one 
which is in the nature of the case general and abstract, to the con- 
cretely variable circumstances of different particular situations. 
This adaptation is achieved, not by substituting a new "correct" 
for an incorrect explanation, but by introducing an analysis of the 
effect of specific modifications of the generalized structure pre- 
sented here, and by taking account of additional factors which the 
generality of this analysis has not permitted to be treated. 

'■■ I 


Social Classes and Class Conflict 
in the Light of Recent 
Sociological Theory 

I. The Marxian View as a Point of Departure 

Nineteen hundred and forty-eight is the centenary of the Com- 
munist Manifesto— the first major theoretical statement of Marxism 
—and some stocktaking of where Marx and Engels stood in an im- 
portant hne of the development of social science rather than only 
as the ideological founders of "scientific socialism" is in order. 

The president of the American Economic Association, Professor 
Schumpeter/ has particularly clearly distinguished these two as- 
pects of Marx's work. He has also within the scientific component 
distinguished Marx, the economic theorist, from Marx, the sociolo- 
gist. In both respects I should like to follow Professor Schumpeter. 

From my point of view, looking toward the development of 
modern sociological theory, Marx represented a first major step 
beyond the point at which the Utilitarian theorists, who set the 
frame of reference within which the classical economics developed, 
stood. Marx introduced no fundamental modification of the general 
theory of human social behavior in the terms which this school of 
thought represented. He did, however, unlike the Utilitarians, see 
and emphasize the massive fact of the structuring of interests rather 
than treating them as distributed at random. The structure of the 
productive forces which Marx outlined for capitalist society is 
real and of fundamental importance. Naturally, many refinements 
in the presentation of the structural facts and their historical devel- 
opment have been introduced since Marx's day, but the fundamental 
fact is certainly correct. The theory of class conflict is an integral 
part of this. It is of great interest to sociology. 

^ J. A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. 


Marx, however, tended to treat the socioeconomic structure of 
capitalist enterprise as a single indivisible entity rather than break- 
ing it down analytically into a set of the distinct variables involved 
in it. It is this analytical breakdown which is for present purposes 
the most distinctive feature of modern sociological analysis, and 
which must be done to take advantage of advances that have taken 
place. It results both in a modification of the Marxian view of the 
system itself and enables the establishment of relations to other 
aspects of the total social system, aspects of which Marx was un- 
aware. This change results in an important modification of Marx's 
empirical perspective in relation to the class problem as in other 
contexts. The primary structural emphasis no longer falls on the 
orientation of capitalistic enterprise to profit and the theory of ex- 
ploitation but rather on the structure of occupational roles within 
the system of industrial society. 

Thus class conflict and its structural bases are seen in a somewhat 
diflFerent perspective. Conflict does not have the same order of in- 
evitability, but is led back to the interrelations of a series of more 
particular factors, the combinations of which may vary. Exactly 
how serious the element of conflict is becomes a matter of empirical 
investigation. Similarly, the Marxian utopianism about the class- 
lessness of communist society is brought into serious question. There 
is a sense in which the Marxian view of the inevitability of class 
conflict is the obverse of the Utopian factor in Marxian thought. 

It should, however, be clearly noted how important Marx was in 
the development of modern sociological thought. All three of the 
writers who may be regarded as its most important theoretical 
founders— Vilfredo Pareto, Emile Durkheim and Max Weber— were 
profoundly concerned with the problems raised by Marx. Each of 
them took the Marxian view with great seriousness as compared 
with its Utilitarian background, but none of them ended up as a 
Marxian. Each pushed on to a further development in a distinctive 
direction which in spite of the diversity of their backgrounds con- 
tains a striking common element.- 

II. The Approach to the Analysis of Social Stratification in Terms 
of Modern Sociological Theory 
On the basis of modern sociological approach, it may perhaps be 
said that Marx looked at the structure of capitalistic enterprise and 

2 Talcott Parsons, The Structure of Social Action. 


generalized a social system from it, including the class structure 
and, to him the inevitable conflicts involved in it. Conversely, the 
concept of the generalized social system is the basis of modem 
sociological thinking. Analyzed in this framework, both capitalistic 
enterprise and social stratification are seen in the context of their 
role in such a social system. The organization of production and 
social stratification are, of course, both variable in these terms, 
though also functionally related to each other. For the functional 
basis of the phenomena of stratification, it is necessary to analyze 
the problem of integrating and ordering social relationships v^^ithin 
a social system. Some set of norms governing relations of superiority 
and inferiority is an inherent need of every stable social system. 
There vn}l be immense variation, but this is a constant point of 
reference. Such a patterning or ordering is the stratification system 
of the society. 

As M^ith all other major structural elements of the social system, 
the norms governing its stratification tend to become institutional- 
ized; that is, moral sentiments crystallize about them and the whole 
system of motivational elements (including both disinterested and 
self-interested components) tends to be structured in support of 
conformity to them. There is a system of sanctions, both formal 
and informal, in support; so that deviant tendencies are met with 
varying degrees and kinds of disapproval, withdrawal of co-opera- 
tion, and positive infliction of punishment. Conversely, there are 
rewards for conformity and institutionalized achievements.^ 

It follows that in relation to the problem of social class as in 
other fields, the general problem of economic motivation must be 
viewed in an institutional context. Even the system of profit seeking 
of modern capitalism is, there is abundant evidence, an institution- 
alized system. To be sure, it grew up as a result of emancipation 
from previous institutional controls in a pre-capitalistic order, but 
it could not have become established and stabilized to the extent 
that actually happened had it not had a positive system of moral 
sentiments underlying it and had it not acquired an institutional 
status of its own. The Marxian interpretation of this problem tends 
to see the structuring and control of self-interest only in terms of 
the reahstic situation in which people are placed. Modem socio- 

3 See Talcott Parsons, Essays in Sociological Theory, for a variety of diflFerent 
discussions of the problem of institutionalization and its relation to motivation 
on the psychological level. 


logical theory accedes fully to the importance of this aspect, but 
insists tliat it must be seen in combination with a structure of insti- 
tutionalized moral sentiments as well, so that conformity is deter- 
mined by a system of mutually reinforcing situational pressures and 
subjective motivational elements, which in one sense are obverse 
aspects of the same process, 

III. The Fundamentals of Stratification in a Modern 
Industrialized Social System 

The distinctive feature of this structure called "social stratifi- 
cation" is that it ranks individuals in the general social hierarchy in 
generalized terms, not in any one specific context. For the sake of 
simplicity, we may first speak specifically of the importance of two 
such contexts in a modern Industrial society and then of the articu- 
lations between them. 

Looked at in the large, by far the most prominent structure of 
modern Western society is that organized around the "work" people 
do, whether this work is in the field of economic enterprise, of 
governmental function, or of various other types of private nonpro- 
fit activity, such as that of our own academic profession. The ex- 
tremely elaborate division of labor, which permits a tremendous 
specialization of functions of this sort, of course necessitates an 
equally elaborate system of exchange, where the products of the 
work of specialized groups ( whether they be material or immaterial ) 
are made available to those who can utilize them, and vice versa, 
the specialist is enabled to live without performing innumerable 
functions for himself, because he has access to the results of the 
work of innumerable others. Similarly, there must be a property sys- 
tem which regulates claims to transferable entities, material or im- 
material, and thereby secures rights in means of life and in the 
facilities which are necessary for the performance of function. This 
whole complex of structural elements in our society may be called 
"the instrumental complex." Its three fundamental elements— occu- 
pation, exchange, and property— are all inextricably interdependent. 

On a high level of the structural differentiation of a social system, 
the occupational system seems to be the least variable of the three 
and thus in a certain sense structurally the most fundamental. Elab- 
oration of the system of exchange and its segregation from func- 
tionally irrelevant contexts are certainly essential. But there may be 
great variation in the extent to which the units in the exchange 


process enjoy autonomy in their decisions and are thus free to be 
oriented to their own "profit" or act merely as agents of a more 
comprehensive organization. Similarly, though presumably some- 
thing like the Roman-modern institution of ownership is called for, 
the organization units in which such rights inhere may also vary, 
and with them the line between property and contractual rights. 

Within such ranges of variation, a highly developed system of 
occupational roles, with functional considerations dominating them, 
will tend to have certain relatively constant features. Perhaps the 
most important of these features, seen in comparative perspective, 
is its inherently "individualistic" character. That is, the status of 
the individual must be determined on grounds essentially peculiar 
to himself, notably his own personal qualities, technical competence, 
and his own decisions about his occupational career and with re- 
spect to which he is not identified with any solidary group. 

This is, of course, not in the least to suggest that he has complete 
freedom; he is subject to all manner of pressures, many of which 
are from various points of view "irrational." It is nevertheless fun- 
damental that status and role allocation and the processes of mobil- 
ity from status to status are in terms of the individual as a unit and 
not of solidary groups, like kinship groups, castes, village commu- 
nities, etc. 

There is, furthermore, an inherent hierarchical aspect to such a 
system. There are two fundamental functional bases of the hierar- 
chical aspect. One is the diflFerentiation of levels of skill and com- 
petence involved in the many different functional roles. The require- 
ment of rare abilities on the one hand and of competence which can 
only be acquired by prolonged and difficult training on the other 
make such differentiation inherent. Secondly, organization on an 
ever increasing scale is a fundamental feature of such a system. 
Such organization naturally involves centralization and differentia- 
tion of leadership and authority; so that those who take respon- 
sibility for co-ordinating the actions of many others must have a 
different status in important respects from those who are essentially 
in the role of carrying out specifications laid down by others. From 
a sociological point of view, one of the fundamental problems in 
such a system is the way in which these basic underlying differen- 
tiations get structured into institutionalized status differentiations. 

The second major context of an industrialized social system which 
is relevant to its stratification is that of kinship. The fundamental 


principle of kinship relationships is that of the solidarity of the mem- 
bers of the kinsliip unit which precludes individualistic differentia- 
tion of fortune and status in the sense in which this is fundamental 
to the occupational system In other societies, extended kinship units 
are very prominent indeed. In our society, the size of the unit has 
been reduced to a relative minimum— the conjugal family of parents 
and immature children. Only on this basis is it compatible with our 
occupational system at all. Nevertheless, this minimum is funda- 
mental to our social system and differentiations of status, except 
those involved in age and sex roles, cannot be tolerated within it. 
The same individual who has a role in the occupational system is 
also a member of the family unit. In the latter context, his status 
must be shared within broad limits by the others, irrespective of 
their personal competence, qualities, and deserts. The articulation 
of the two is possible only by virtue of the fact that in the type 
case only one member of a family unit, the husband or father, is in 
the fullest sense normally a functioning member of the occupational 
system. Important though this degree of segregation of the two is, 
for it to be complete would be functionally impossible. 

Wives, by virtue of at least different qualities and achievements 
than those of their husbands, must in the relevant contexts share 
their status. This means that criteria and symbols of status relevant 
to the family must be extended to realms outside the sphere of the 
same order of functionally utilitarian considerations on which a 
woman's husband's status in his occupation is based. The style of 
life of a family and its implication in the realm of feminine activities, 
however dependent it may be on a husband's income, precludes 
that total status should be a simple function of the "shop" concerns 
of a man's occuf)ational world. Equally important, children must 
share the status of their parents if there is to be a family system at 
all. If the status of the parents is hierarchically differentiated, there 
will inevitably be an element of differential access to opportunity. 

It is only in terms of the articulation of these two fundamentals, 
the instrumental complex and kinship, that I should speak of social 
class in a sociological sense. A class may then be defined as a plural- 
ity of kinship units which, in those respects where status in a hier- 
archical context is shared by their members, have approximately 
equal status. The class status of an individual, therefore, is that 
which he shares with the other members in an effective kinship 
unit. We have a class system, therefore, only insofar as the differ- 


entiations inherent in our occupational structure, with its difiFer- 
ential relations to the exchange system and to property, remunera- 
tion, etc., has become ramified out into a system of strata, which 
involve differentiations of family living based partly on income, 
standard of life and style of life, and, of course, differential access 
for the younger generation to opportunity as well as differential 
pressures to which they are subject. There is no doubt that every- 
where that modern industrial society has existed there has been a 
class system in this sense. There are, however, considerable varia- 
tions from one society to another, particularly between tiie European 
versions of industrial capitalism and the American. 

In certain respects, the above considerations might be regarded 
as obvious. It has been necessary to enter into them, however, be- 
cause of their bearing on the perspective in which the modern class 
system is seen. "Liberal" economic thought has for understandable 
reasons paid primary attention to the market system and therefore 
views the economy as a system of market-oriented units rather than 
concerning itself with occupational structure, most of which is in- 
ternal to such units. Marxian thought shares this emphasis with the 
addition of the capitalist-labor division in its bearing on the market 
process. Neither has had much concern for the family. The impor- 
tance of the difference of perspective will become evident in the 
analysis of class conflict which follows. 

IV. The Analysis of Class Conflict in Sociological Terms 

The above sociological analysis of social stratification is based 
heavily on the general view that stratification is to an important 
degree an integrating structure in the social system. The ordering of 
relationships in this context is necessary to stability. This is neces- 
sary precisely because of the importance of potential though often 
latent conflicts. Therefore, the problem of class conflict may be 
approached in terms of an analysis of these latent conflicts and of 
the ways in which the institutional integration of the system does 
and does not succeed in developing adequate control mechanisms. 
The following principal aspects of the tendency to develop class 
conflict in our type of social system may be mentioned. 

1. There is an inherently competitive aspect of our individualistic 
occupational system. Because it is differentiated on a prestige scale 
and because there is individual choice of occupation and a measure 
of equality of opportunity, there will inevitably be some differentia- 


tion into winners and losers. Certain psychological consequences of 
such situations are known. There will be certain tendencies to ar- 
rogance on the part of some winners and to resentment and to a 
"sour grapes" attitude on the part of some losers. The extent to 
which the system is institutionalized in terms of genuine standards 
of fair competition is the critical problem. 

2. The role of organization means that there must be an impor- 
tant part played by discipline and authority. Discipline and author- 
ity do not exist on a grand scale without generating some resistance. 
Some form, therefore, of structuring in terms of an opposition of 
sentiments and interests between those in authority and those sub- 
ject to it is endemic in such a system. The whole problem of the 
institutionalization of authority so as to insure its adequate accept- 
ance where necessary and protect against its abuse is difficult— 
doubly so in such a complex system. 

3. There does seem to be a general tendency for the strategically 
placed, the powerful, to exploit the weaker or less favorably placed. 
The ways in which such a tendency works out and in which it is 
controlled and counteracted are almost infinitely various in diflPer- 
ent societies and social situations. Among the many possibilities, 
Marxian theory of capitalistic exploitation selects what it claims to 
be an integrated combination of reinforcing factors, the principal 
components of which are the use of positions of authority within 
organizations (the capitalistic "boss"); the exploitation of bargain- 
ing advantage in market relations (e.g., the labor market); and the 
use of the power of the state to the diflFerential advantage of certain 
private interests ("executive committee of the bourgeoisie"). In 
my opinion, the Marxian view of this factor needs to be broken 
down into such components which are certainly independently 
variable and related to a variety of other factors which Marx did 
not consider. In the face of ideology and counterideology, this is 
particularly difficult but it is essential if one is to reach a basis for 
a scientific judgment of the Marxian doctrine of the dynamics of 

4. There seem to be inherent tendencies for those who are struc- 
turally placed at notably different points in a differentiated social 
structure to develop different "cultures." There will tend to be a 
differentiation of attitude systems, of ideologies, and of definitions 
of the situation to a greater or less degree around the structure of 
the occupational system and of the other components of the instru- 


mental complex, such as the relation to markets and profits. The 
development of these differentiated cultures may readily impede 
communication across the lines of these groups. Under certain cir- 
cumstances, this tendency to develop a hiatus may become cumu- 
lative unless counteracted by effective integrative mechanisms. A 
leading modern example is the opposing ideologies of business and 
labor groups in modern industrial society. Marx provided a begin- 
ning of analysis in this direction— but it did not go far enough. 

5. It is precisely in the area of such a subculture, which is inte- 
grated v^ith a structural status, that the problem of articulation with 
kinship becomes most important. The differences in the situation 
of people placed at different points in the occupational system and 
of the consequences for family income and living conditions seem 
to lead to a notable differentiation of family type. In American 
urban society, a relatively clear differentiation of this kind has been 
shown to exist between "middle-class" and "lower-class" groups as 
they are generally called in the sociological literature. These differ- 
ences are apparently such as to penetrate into the deepest psycho- 
logical layers of attitude determination. There are indications from 
our society that the family structure of the lower groups is such as 
to favor attitudes which positively handicap their members in com- 
petition for status in the occupational system. The role of the inte- 
gration between occupation and kinship, therefore, under certain 
circumstances can become an important factor in pushing toward 
cumulative separation of classes and potential conflict between 

6. Absolute equality of opportunity in the occupational system, 
which is, in a sense, the ideal type norm for such a system, is in 
practice impossible. There seem to be two main types of limitation. 

a) Certain of these are, as noted above, inherent in the func- 
tional requirements of family solidarity. Children must share the 
status of their parents, and insofar as this is differentiated, the more 
favored groups will have differential access to opportunity. This 
seems to be counteracted by certain compensating mechanisms, 
such as leading some of the children of the upper groups into paths 
which positively handicap them in occupational competition (e.g., 
the playboy pattern ) . It may also be pointed out that a differential 
birth rale has a functional significance in leaving relatively more 
room at the top for the children of the lower groups. 

b) There are important reasons to believe that the complete 


institutionalization of the universalistic and functionally specific 
standards so prominent in our occupational world is not possible 
in a large scale social system. Such problems as the difficulty in 
establishing comparability of different lines of achievement, the 
lack of complete adequacy of objective standards of judgment of 
them, and similar things necessitate mechanisms which avoid too 
direct a comparison and which favor a very rough, broad scale 
rather than one of elaborately precise comparison. To take just one 
example in the academic profession, there is a wide variation of 
degrees of distinction between the senior members of any large 
university faculty. The tendency, however, is to play down these 
variations in favor of a broad similarity of status; for instance, as 
full professor, to conceal differentiations of salary within this group 
from public view, and to concentrate the most highly competitive 
elements at certain very narrowly specified points, such as the ap- 
pointment to permanent rank. Considerations such as these lead to 
the view that there will be elements in an occupational system 
which nm counter to the main structural type but which have the 
function of cushioning the impact of the latter on certain "human 
factors" and thus protect the stability of the system. 

The fundamental problem then is how far factors such as these 
operate to produce deep-seated and chronic conflict between classes 
and how far they are counteracted by other factors in the social 
system such as the last mentioned. It should first, of course, be 
pointed out that these are not the only directions in which a struc- 
turing tending to conflict takes place. There is considerable evidence 
that in the modern Western World, national solidarity tends gen- 
erally to take precedence over class solidarity and that, even more 
generally, the solidarity of ethnic groupings is of particularly cru- 
cial significance. One cannot help having the impression that in 
these matters Marx chose one among the possibilities rather than 
proving that there could be only one of crucial significance. 

Furthermore, in Europe the precapitalistic residues of the old 
class structure in the ways in which they got tied in with the con- 
sequences of the developing industrial society have a great deal to 
do with the acuteness of class conflict. A good example of this is 
Germany with the continuing powerful position during the imperial 
and even the Weimar periods of the nobility and the old civil serv- 
ice and professional groups which were certainly not the product 


of the capitalistic process alone. The problem of the "threat of com- 
munism" in Germany just before Hitler was certainly colored by their 
role. Class conflict certainly exists in the United States, but it is differ- 
ent from the German case and much less influenced than the latter 
by precapitalistic structures. Marxian theory inhibited the recog- 
nition of differences such as this— all class conflicts in a society in 
any sense capitalistic had to be reduced to a single pattern. Another 
most important set of conclusions from this type of analysis is that 
there must be certain elements of fundamental identity of the 
functional problems of social stratification and class in capitalist and 
socialist societies, if we have given two really fundamental ele- 
ments: the large-scale organization and occupational role differen- 
tiation of industrial society and a family system. The history of 
Soviet Russia would seem to confirm this view. The role of the 
managerial and intelligentsia class, which has been progressively 
strengthened since the revolution, does not have a place in the 
Marxist Utopia. In certain major respects, the role of managers and 
technical personnel closely resembles American society. I, for one, 
do not believe that there is a sharp and fundamental sociological 
distinction between capitalist society and all noncapitalist industrial 
societies. I believe that class conflict is endemic in our modern in- 
dustrial type of society. I do not, however, believe that the case has 
been made for believing that it is the dominant feature of every 
such society and of its dynamic development. Its relation to other 
elements of tension, conflict, and dynamic change is a complex mat- 
ter, about which we cannot attempt the Marxian order of general- 
ization with certainty until our science is much further developed 
than it is today. 

It is relevant to this set of problems that since Marx wrote, our 
knowledge of comparative social structures has immensely broad- 
ened and deepened. Seen in the perspective of such knowledge, 
the sociological emphases on the interpretation of modem Western 
society have shifted notably. Capitalist and socialist industrialisms 
tend to be seen as variants of a single fundamental type, not as 
drastically distinct stages in a single process of dialectic evolution. 
Indeed, to the modern sociologist the rigid evolutionary schema of 
Marxian thought appears as a strait jacket rather than a genuine 
source of illumination of the immensely variant facts of institutional 


V. Conclusion 

The Marxian theory of class conflict seen as a step in the develop- 
ment of social science rather than as a clarion call to revolution thus 
represents a distinct step in advance of the ultilitarian background 
of the predominant economic tliought of a century ago. Though 
couched in terms of a neo-Hegelian evolutionary theory of history, 
it was, seen in terms of subsequent developments of social science, 
an advance more on the level of empirical insight and generalization 
from it than of the analytical treatment of dynamic factors in social 
process. The endless exegetical discussions of the "relations" or "con- 
ditions" of production and of what was meant or implied in them 
is an indication of this. 

As a point of focus for the subsequent development of modern 
sociological theory, however, the Marxian ideas have had an im- 
portant place, forming a point of departure for the formulation of 
many of the fundamentals of the theory of social institutions. The 
Marxian view of the importance of class structure has in a broad 
way been vindicated. 

When the problem of the genesis and importance of social classes 
and their conflicts is approached in these modern sociological terms, 
however, considerable modifications of the Marxian position are 
necessitated. Systems of stratification in certain respects are seen to 
have positive functions in the stabilization of social systems. The 
institutionalization of motivation operates within the system of capi- 
talistic profit making. The Marxian ideal of a classless society is in 
all probability Utopian— above all so long as a family system is main- 
tained but also for other reasons. The differences between capitalist 
and socialist societies, particularly with respect to stratification, are 
not as great as Marx and Engels thought. 

In both types there is a variety of potential sources of class con- 
flict centering about the structure of the productive process. Those 
lying within the Marxian purview are not so monolithically inte- 
grated in the process of capitalist exploitation as Marx thought, but 
are seen to be much more specific and in certain degrees independ- 
ently variable. Some of them, like the relation to family solidarity, 
lay outside the Marxian focus of emphasis on the relations of pro- 

Insofar as Marx and Engels were true social scientists, as indeed 
in one principal aspect of their role they were, we justly celebrate 
their centennial in a scientific meeting. They promulgated ideas 


which were a notable advance on the general state of knowledge in 
the field at the time. They provided a major stimulus and definition 
of problems for further notable advances. They formed an indis- 
pensable link in the chain of development of social science. The 
fact that social science in this aspect of their field has evolved 
beyond the level to which they brought it is a tribute to their 


Psychoanalysis and the 
Social Structure 

The Basic Common Frame of Reference 

BOTH PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY and the type of sociological theory 
which is in process of developing a new type of analysis of social 
structure and its dynamics go back to the same basic conceptual 
scheme or frame of reference which it is convenient to call the 
theory of action. This theory conceives the behaving individual or 
actor as operating in a situation which is given independently of his 
goals and wishes, but, within the limits of that situation and using 
those potentialities which are subject to his control, actively oriented 
to the attainment of a system of goals and wishes. Studying the pro- 
cesses of action, the scheme takes the point of view of the meaning 
of the various elements of the system to the actor. Meaning may be 
of several different types, of which, perhaps, the most important 
are the cognitive and the affective or emotional. Finally, the mutual 
orientation of human beings to each other, both as objects of mean- 
ing and as means to each other's goals, is a fundamental aspect of 
the scheme. Though it is logically possible to treat a single individ- 
ual in isolation from others, there is every reason to believe that 
this case is not of important empirical significance. All concrete 
action is in this sense social, including psychopathological behavior. 
There are two main foci of theoretical organization of systems 
within the broad framework of this conceptual scheme. One is the 
individual personality as a system, and the other is the social sys- 
tem. The first is, according to this point of view, the primary focus 
of the subject matter of the science of psychology; the second that 
of social science in the specific sense. The same fundamental con- 
ceptual components are involved in the treatment of both, and on 
a broader level whatever theories exist in both are part of the same 
fundamental theoretical system. Nevertheless, it is extremely impor- 


tant to differentiate the various levels and ways in which these 
conceptual components are involved or combined. It is dangerous 
to shift from the one level to the other without taking adequate 
account of the systematic differences that are involved. 

The Social System 
as a Structural-Functional System of Action 

It is essential from the point of view of social science to treat the 
social system as a distinct and independent entity which must be 
studied and analyzed on its own level, not as a composite resultant 
of the actions of the component individuals alone. There is no rea- 
son to attribute any fundamental logical or ontological priority to 
either the social system or the personality. In treating the social 
system as a system, structural categories have proved to be 
essential in the same sense as in the biological sciences, and pre- 
sumably also in psychology.^ In the present state of knowledge of 
social systems, it is not possible to treat a total social system directly 
as a dynamic equilibrium of motivational forces. It is necessary to 
treat motivational problems in the context of their relation to struc- 
ture, and to raise dynamic problems in terms of the balance of forces 
operating to maintain or alter a given structure. At this point, how- 
ever, psychological categories in social science play a fundamental 
role which is in some respects analogous to biochemistry in bio- 
logical science. In this context what is meant by social structure is 
a system of patterned expectations of the behavior of individuals 
who occupy particular statuses in the social system. Such a system 
of patterned legitimate expectations is called by sociologists a sys- 
tem of roles. In so far as a cluster of such roles is of strategic sig- 
nificance to the social system, the complex of patterns which define 
expected behavior in them may be referred to as an institution. For 
example, in so far as the behavior of spouses in their mutual rela- 
tionships is governed by socially sanctioned legitimate expectations 
in such a sense that departure from these patterns will call forth 
reactions of moral disapproval or overt sanctions, we speak of the 
institution of marriage. Institutional structures in this sense are the 
fundamental element of the structure of the social system. They 
constitute relatively stable crystallizations of behavioral forces in 

1 Cf. Cannon, Walter B. and Higginson, George: The Wisdom of the Body. 
Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1939; Freud: The Ego and the 
Id. London: Hogarth Press, 1927; Parsons, Talcott: The other essays in the 
present volume. 


such a way that action can be sufficiently regularized so as to be 
compatible with the functional requirements of a society. 

From the psychological point of view, institutionalized roles seem 
to have two primary functions. The first is the structuring of the 
reality situation for the action of the individual. They define the 
expectations of behavior which are generalized in the attitude pat- 
terns of other individuals with whom he may come in contact. They 
tell him what the probable consequences of various alternative 
forms of action are likely to be. Second, they structure the 'superego 
content' for the individual. It is fundamentally the patterns institu- 
tionalized in role structure which constitute the moral standards 
which are introjected in the process of socialization and become an 
important part of the personahty structure of the individual himself, 
whether he conforms to them or not. It may be stated as a funda- 
mental theorem of social science that one measure of the integra- 
tion of a social system is the coincidence of the patterns which are 
introjected in the average superego of those occupying tlie relevant 
social statuses with the functional needs of the social system which 
has that particular structure. 

The Discrepancy Between Personality Structure 
and Institutional Motivation 

One of the most important reasons why it is dangerous to infer 
too directly from the psychological to the social structure level and 
vice versa is the extremely important fact that there is not a simple 
correspondence between personality structure and institutional 
structure. On the level of clinical diagnosis, the persons occupying 
the same well-defined status in the social system will be found to 
cover a wide range of f)ersonality types. It is true that seen in suffi- 
ciently broad perspective there will be modal types which differ 
from one society to another, but this is a statistical correspondence 
and not one of the social pattern to the personality pattern of each 
individual. This means that there must be mechanisms by which the 
behavior of individuals is motivated to conform with institutional 
expectations, even though personality structure as such does not 
give an adequately effective background for it. 

It is convenient to refer to the fundamental mechanism involved 
here as the 'structural generalization of goals'; thus there is a level 
of the structuring of motivational forces which is essentially a func- 


tion of the institutional situations in which people are put, rather 
than of their particular personality structures. It may be said to 
operate within the range of flexibility which personality structures 
permit, and, of course, to involve a greater or less amount of strain 
to carry out that conformity. This, however, is one area of the anal- 
ysis of motivation where the relation of psychology to social struc- 
ture is particularly important. To cite just one example, most 
attempts at a direct psychological attack on the problem of so- 
called economic motivation, or the profit motive, have proved to be 
singularly unfruitful. The essential reason for this is that the uni- 
formities of social behavior do not directly correspond to uni- 
formities on the psychological level independent of the institutional 
context. Anything like the profit motive of modem Western society 
is not a psychological universal, and the corresponding behavior 
would not be found in many, for instance, nonliterate and other 

The Problem of the Use of Motivational Categories in Dynamic 
Explanations on the Sociological Level 

The most notable direct contributions of psychoanalytic theory 
to the empirical understanding of behavior would seem to fall in 
the dynamic theory of motivation of the individual in the context of 
the structure of personality. The most important problem of the 
relation of psychoanalysis to social structure from the point of view 
of the sociologist is how these categories can be used for explana- 
tory purposes on the level of the analysis of social structure and 
its changes as such. This is a field in which it is particularly dan- 
gerous to attempt too direct an explanation. The lack of corres- 
pondence between personality structure and social structure should 
make this clear. 

The sociologist is, in the first instance, concerned with behavior 
and attitudes which are of strategic significance to the social sys- 
tem. In the terms stated, this means tendencies which either support 
the structure of an existing social system or tend to alter it in 
specific ways.^ The judgments of significance on which the state- 
ments of sociological problems of motivation are based must there- 

2 Cf. Parsons, Talcott: The Motivation of Economic Activities, Chap. 
Ill above. 

3 This excludes behavior which varies at random, relative to structural pat- 
terns, from being treated as sociologically significant. 


fore be couched in terms of the frame of reference of the social 
system, not of personality, though of course they must be com- 
patible with established knowledge of personality. 

Such problems must in turn be approached in terms of constructs 
of typical motivation, typical of the persons occupying given statuses 
in the social structure. The most obvious of the ingredients of such 
constructs will of course be derived from the situation in which a 
given incumbent of such a status is placed— a situation principally 
compounded of the behavior and attitudes of others. But psycho- 
analytic theory shows that these alone are not sufficient; certain 
typical elements of structure of the particular personality, such as 
superego content and ways in which the instinctual components are 
organized, are also involved. It is furthermore often necessary to 
hnk these elements in a developmental sequence so that the moti- 
vational structures resulting from an earlier situation in the life 
cycle become elements in shaping the situations of a later stage. 

There is involved throughout this procedure a peculiar process 
of abstraction from the frame of reference of personality as a func- 
tioning system. Psychologists and psychoanalysts tend to take this 
frame of reference for granted and thus find it difficult to accept 
the sociologist's mode of abstraction. They feel it is psychologically 
inadequate, as indeed it is. But adequacy is not an absolute; it is 
relative to the problems which facts and conceptual schemes can 
help to solve. The typical problems of the psychologist and the 
sociologist are different and therefore they need to use the same 
concepts at diflFerent levels of abstraction and in diflFerent com- 

In general it may be said that psychological analysis is oriented 
to the explanation of the concrete acts, attitudes, or ideas of indi- 
viduals. Both motivational elements and the social structure come 
into this, the latter as describing the situation in which the indi- 
vidual must act or to which he has been exposed. Adequacy is 
judged in terms of the completeness of accounting for one given 
act, attitude, or idea as compared to another. The frame of refer- 
ence is, as has been said, the j)ersonality of the relevant individual 
treated as a system. 

The sociologist's problems are different. They concern the bal- 
ance of motivational forces involved in the maintenance of, and 
alteration in, the structure of a social system. This balance is a 
peculiar sort of resultant of very complex interaction processes. It 


can only be successfully analyzed by abstracting from the idiosyn- 
cratic variability of individual behaviors and motivations in terms 
of strategic relevance to the social system. Conversely the psycholo- 
gist abstracts from what are to him the equally idiosyncratic vari- 
ations of social situations in reaching psychological generalizations 
about such matters as the relations of love and security. 

If we had a completely adequate dynamic theory of human moti- 
vation it is probable that this difference of levels of abstraction 
would disappear. Then the use of structural categories, on the 
levels of either personality or the social system, would be unneces- 
sary, for such categories are only empirical generalizations intro- 
duced to fill the gaps left by the inadequacy of our dynamic knowl- 
edge. In the meantime, however, we must put up with the compli- 
cations involved in the diversity of levels. 

It follows from these considerations, if they are accepted, that 
the motivational constructs needed for the solution of any sociolo- 
gical problem will generally turn out to be inadequate to explain 
the action of any particular individual involved in the very con- 
crete events being studied. They will be concerned with certain 
elements in this motivation, but the combinations of these elements 
with others, and hence what will be the order of their strategic 
significance to the psychological problem, cannot be inferred from 
the sociological analysis. 

Conversely, psychologists, whether they are aware of it or not, 
categorize the social structure. But by the same token, the concep- 
tualizations they find adequate for their purposes will generally 
turn out to be inadequate to the explanation of a single process of 
change in a social structure in which the same concrete persons 
and action-sequences were involved. 

It is, in my opinion, neglect of the indispensability of distin- 
guishing these levels of abstraction which, more than errors or 
differences of opinion about facts, has accounted for the difficulties. 
These difficulties, from the sociologist's point of view, have been 
prominent in much of what may be called psychologically (psy- 
choanalytically ) oriented sociology which attempts to generalize 
about societies from Totem and Taboo to Geoffrey Gorer's Ameri- 
can People. In the absence of very careful discrimination of these 
levels it was almost inevitable that the analyst would 'extrapolate' 
directly from what he found in the personalities he had studied in 
the clinical situation. He would then necessarily categorize social 


structures ad hoc in the light of these references without systematic 
reference to the social system as a conceptual scheme and the cri- 
teria of relevance inherent in such a reference.^ Certain sociologists 
likewise indulge in ad hoc psychological constructions without ref- 
erence to technical psychological considerations.^ 

An Example of the Use of Motivational Categories for Sociological 
Purposes: American Youth 

To give concrete content to the abstract analysis presented above, 
a brief account of one example of what may be considered the most 
fruitful level of use of psychoanalytic categories in sociological 
interpretation is given. The essential facts are matters of common 

Starting at about high school age young Americans, especially in 
the urban middle classes, embark on patterns of behavior and at- 
titudes which do not constitute a stage in a continuous transition 
from childhood to adulthood but deviate from such a line of con- 
tinuity. Instead of gradually assuming increasing responsibilities 
there is a tendency to such irresponsible acts as reckless driving. A 
major aspect of increasing maturity would seem to be progressively 
greater freedom from needs to conform with rigidly detailed pat- 
terns of the group. On the contrary, there is in youth a rather ex- 
treme pressure to conformity in details of dress and behavior. 
Finally, maturity seems to involve increasing capacity for realistic 
orientation to emotionally significant objects, but in youth there is 
a resurgence of romanticism— a resurgence of unrealistic idealization 
not only in relation to age-peers of the opposite sex, but also in the 
form of hero worship; moreover, such figures as athletic stars whose 
functions are of quite secondary importance in the adult world tend 
to be idealized far more than eminent statesmen, executives or 

This pattern of attitudes and behavior is sufficiently general and 
pronounced to be singled out as a distinctively structured complex 
conveniently called the youth culture. Its principal characteristics 
may be summarized. 

1. Compulsive independence of and antagonism to adult expecta- 

^ In extreme instances, the history of social change has tended to be inter- 
preted as the simple consequence of the collective 'acting out' of the emotional 
tensions observed in personalities. 

•'' In essence this is what Max We]:)er did on a high level in his construction of 
ideal types ot motivation. Cf. Parsons, Talcott: Introduction to: The Theory of 
Social and Economic Organization (Sec. 2) by Max Weber. New York: Oxford 
University Press, 1947. 


tions and authority. This involves recalcitrance to adult standards 
of responsibility and, in extreme instances, treating the conformist 
—who, for instance, takes school work seriously— as a 'sissy' who 
should be excluded from peer-group participation. 

2. Compulsive conformity within the peer group of age mates. 
It is intolerable to be 'different'; not, for example, to use lipstick as 
soon as the other girls do. Related to this is an intense fear of be- 
ing excluded, a corresponding competitiveness for acceptance by 
the 'right' groups, and a ruthless rejection of those who 'don't make 
the grade'. 

3. Romanticism: an unrealistic idealization of emotionally sig- 
nificant objects. There is a general tendency to see the world in 
sharply black and white terms; identifications with one's gang, or 
team, or school tend to be very intense and involve highly imma- 
ture disparagements of other groups. 

There is thus a well-defined sociological problem. In the social- 
ization of the younger generation in the American social system, 
there is a specifically structured deviation (a mass phenomenon) 
from the path of asymptotic approach to 'maturity'. What is this 
all about? Comparative evidence adequately disposes of the pop- 
ular view that it is a consequence of physiological maturation be- 
cause there is no reason to believe that Samoans or Chinese 'ado- 
lesce' differently from Americans in a physiological sense.^ It is 
therefore plausible to suggest that the American social structure 
through its impact on the human material may provide a field of 

The essential structural facts are very simple but must be con- 
sidered at two age levels. American middle class children, unlike 
many others, are reared in small conjugal families normally sepa- 
rated in place of residence and other respects from other close kin. 
There is a very small circle of emotionally significant persons on 
whom the child's object cathexes must be focused: father, mother, 
and one, two or three siblings. Of these the mother occupies a par- 
ticularly central place for both sexes because no other women have 
a remotely similar role, and because the father works away from 
home and is thus absent a great deal of the time; moreover, there 
is a very sharp distinction between relations inside the home and 
those outside. In the neighborhood play group and later in school, 

6 Cf. Mead, Margaret: Coming of Age in Samoa. New York: William Morrow 
& Co., 1928, and Levy, M. J., Jr.: The Family Revolution in Modern China, 
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1949. 


the child must 'find its own level' in competition with others with 
whose parents his parents have no clearly ordered status relation- 
ship, who are just neighbors. 

Approaching adulthood the American youth faces a situation very 
different from the youth of many other societies. Both sexes look 
forward to the 'independence' of leaving the parental home and 
setting up a home of their own. The choice of a partner in marriage 
is their personal responsibility, without major parental participation 
in the decision. Boys must make their own way, achieving status and 
income in a competitive occupational system. Most girls can look 
forward to support by a husband, but they must choose the husband 
on their own responsibility, and their own status and welfare and 
that of their children depends most crucially on the wisdom of the 

What is the impact of these two successive situations on the 
human material exposed to them, taking due account of differentia- 
tion according to sex? Insights into motivation which stem from 
psychoanalysis more than any other source provide the principal 

In the first place, the sharp limitation of the circle of objects of 
cathexis tends to intensify emotional involvements. This is particu- 
larly true of the common significance of the relation to the mother 
since she is unique and the father tends to be remote. This intensity 
is reinforced by early exposure to a competitive process outside the 
family in which it seems reasonable to assume that the insecurity 
generated tends to be compensated by greater dependence on fam- 
ilial cathexes. Thus more than other family systems the American 
makes the child highly dependent emotionally on its parents, par- 
ticularly the mother. 

The child is then placed in a situation, as it approaches adulthood, 
where it must, if it is to live adequately up to expectations, break 
away from these ties far more drastically than is necessary in most 
societies. If a male, he must choose his own occupation and make 
his own way in it. He must make the complicated emotional adjust- 
ment to a sexual partner and spouse on his own initiative and re- 
sponsibility. A girl must 'catch' an acceptable man by exercise of 
her own feminine attraction in sharp competition with other girls 
and without adult support. 

For boys the situation is greatly complicated by the tendency to 
feminine identification inherent in the especially intense relation 


to the mother and the remoteness of the father. This seems to ac- 
count for a reaction-formation of 'compulsive mascuhnity' which 
appears in the latency period and is carried, in a socially structured 
way, over into adolescence and beyond. With it goes a deep am- 
bivalence toward moral values (since these tend to be felt as 
feminine ) and toward the acceptability of sexuality. For girls there 
seems to be greater stability in childhood through identification 
with the mother which probably accounts for much of their pre- 
cocity. When, however, they face the 'mancatching' situation, to be 
too much of a motherly figure is, in the face of masculine ambiva- 
lence, by no means an unambiguous asset. The conflict between 
'glamor' and the domestic pattern seems to have its roots in this 

Thus the compulsive independence of the youth culture may, 
according to well-established psychological principles, be inter- 
preted as involving a reaction-formation against dependency needs, 
which is for understandable reasons particularly prominent among 
boys. The compulsive conformity, in turn, would seem to serve as 
an outlet for these dependency needs, but displaced from parental 
figures onto the peer group so that it does not interfere with the 
independence. The element of romanticism finally seems to express 
the ambivalence and insecurity which are inherent in the emotional 
patterning of both sexes when faced with highly crucial decisions. 
It is a tonic stimulus to confidence and action in the face of poten- 
tially paralyzing conflicts. 

The above is a highly schematic and simplified interpretation of 
the psychological dynamics of American youth culture. Any experi- 
enced analyst can add many more nuances of motivation, as a so- 
ciologist would on the details of the social structiue. The analysis 
is carried only far enough to illustrate concretely an application of 
psychoanalytic concepts to sociological usage. This is not 'psycho- 
analytic sociology' in the sense of generalizing from clinical insights 
in terms of their 'implications' for society. It involves the use of tech- 
nical sociological theory in the statement of problems and the anal- 
ysis of social structure; nevertheless, the contributions of psycho- 
analysis are crucial. Without them a far cruder level of dynamic in- 
terpretation would have to be accepted. By further refinement of 
both components of the scheme, far more refined and subtle inter- 
pretations are likely to be attainable. 



Psychoanalytic theory can make a crucially important contribu- 
tion to the problems of the sociologist, though not, of course, to the 
exclusion of other traditions of psychological theory. This contribu- 
tion is, however, likely to be much more fruitful if it is made in the 
form of the adaptation of psychoanalytic concepts and analyses of 
motivation to the technical needs of sociological theory in terms of 
problems stated in sociological terms. 

This way of using psychoanalytic theory, it has been pointed out, 
involves putting it into a frame of reference, the social system, 
which is not usually familiar to the clinical analyst and which is not 
reducible to terms of his own clinical experience and standards of 
expectation, couched as these are, implicitly or explicitly, in terms of 
the frame of reference of personality. To make the transition re- 
quires such a shift in perspective and problems that it must be held 
that the analyst, no matter how well trained, is not per se compe- 
tent to apply psychoanalytic theory to sociological problems. To do 
this he must be a trained sociologist, he must learn to think in terms 
of social systems, and he does not automatically learn this from 
clinical experience as an analyst but only from studying sociology 
as such. 

But if the sociologist is to utilize the potential contributions 
of psychoanalysis to his problems, he can only do so competently 
by going to the authentic sources, by learning psychoanalysis him- 
self, as far as possible by the regular training procedures. To some 
important degree the same people must have real competence in 
both fields. Only from such a solid base is the diflFusion of psycho- 
analytic knowledge into such a neighboring field possible without 

If the general position here taken is sound, there is a further im- 
plication which may be briefly noted in conclusion. If psychoana- 
lytic theory is as important to sociology as it certainly seems to be, 
the converse relationship should also be important. This is indeed 
strongly indicated by the fact that analytic theory has laid so much 
emphasis on the psychological importance of social relationships— 
of the child to parents, of the adult to love objects, etc. 

Concretely, these relationships are aspects of social systems; the 
family, for example, is a small-scale social system. The sociological 
aspects of the family as a social system have, understandably, not 
been explicitly considered by psychoanalysts because they have 
concentrated on the particular relations of each patient to each of 


the members of his family in turn. There has been little occasion to 
consider the total family as a social system, though this might well 
yield insights not derivable from the 'atomistic' treatment of each 
relationship in turn. 

Unfortunately the sociologists as yet have not provided as much 
help as they might. The science is in general very immature (but 
then, psychoanalysis is not yet very old) and the principal pre- 
occupation of sociologists has so far been with 'macroscopic' social 
systems. But the evidence is strong that the same fundamental con- 
ceptual scheme, the social system, is applicable all the way from 
the largest-scale societies (like the United States) to groups of 
such small size as the family.^ But the sociological study of small 
groups is in its barest beginnings and, paradoxically, only sugges- 
tions of the technical analysis of the family as a social system exist. 

But in relation to the family the problem for the psychoanalyst 
is the obverse of that outlined above for the sociologist. Supposing 
that in the near future we attain something which could respectably 
be called a sociology of the family; this would no more as such 
solve the analyst's problems about family structure than a psycho- 
analytic theory of personality solves the sociologist's problems of 
motivation. But such a theory would contain the essential concep- 
tual bases on which the analyst could construct a theory of family 
structure adapted to his needs. 

The sociologist must face the problems of human motivation 
whether he wants to or not. If he does not acquire a genuinely com- 
petent theory, he will implicitly adopt a series of ad hoc ideas which 
are no less crucial because they are exempted from critical analysis. 
Turning to psychoanalysis with the proper adaptations can provide 
him with a way out of the dilemma. Perhaps the situation is not 
altogether incomparable in reverse. The analyst is in fact dealing 
with social systems. His ideas about them have tended to be ad hoc 
and common sense. Such ideas may be adequate for many em- 
pirical purposes but tend to break down as subtler levels of general- 
ization are attempted. There is the possibility that this gap can be 
filled by the products of genuinely technical analysis. Originating as 
they do in another frame of reference, to be useful to the analyst 
these would have to be adapted to his problems and needs. But can 
he in the long run do without them any more than the sociologist 
can do without the insights of psychoanalysis? 

■J" This is also true of the classical mechanics, e.g., celestial mechanics, ter- 
restrial mechanics, and the kinetic theory of gases. 


The Prospects of 
Sociological Theory 

TWO YEARS AGO at the annual meeting of this Society it was my 
privilege to act as chairman of the section on theory and thus to be 
responsible for a statement of its contemporary position, as part of 
the general stock-taking of the state of our discipline which was the 
keynote of that meeting. As that meeting was primarily concerned 
with taking stock of where we stood, the present one, with the 
keynote of frontiers of research, is primarily concerned with looking 
toward the future. It therefore seems appropriate to take advantage 
of the present occasion to speak of the future prospects of that 
aspect of sociological science on which more than any other I feel 
qualified to speak. 

The history of science testifies eloquently to the fundamental im- 
portance of the state of its theory to any scientific field. Theory is 
only one of several ingredients which must go into the total brew, 
but for progress beyond certain levels it is an indispensable one. 
Social scientists are plagued by the problems of objectivity in the 
face of tendencies to value-bias to a much higher degree than is 
true of natural scientists. In addition, we have the problem of selec- 
tion among an enormous number of possible variables. For both 
these reasons, it may be argued that perhaps theory is even more 
important in our field than in the natural sciences. At any rate, I 
may presume to suggest that my own election to its presidency by 
the membership of this society may be interpreted as an act of rec- 
ognition of this importance of theory, and a vote of confidence in 
its future development. 

Though my primary concern this evening is with the future, per- 
haps just a word on where we stand at present is in order. Some 
fifteen years ago two young Americans, who, since they were my 
own children, I knew quite intimately, and who were aged approx- 
imately five and three respectively at the time, developed a little 


game of yelling at the top of their voices: "The sociology is about 
to begin, said the man with the loud speaker." However right they 
may have been about their father's professional achievements up to 
that time, as delivering a judgment of the state of the field as a 
whole I think they were a bit on the conservative side. It had 
akeady begun, but especially in the theoretical phase that begin- 
ning did not lie very far back. The historians of our discipline will 
have to settle such questions at a future time, but I for one would 
not hesitate to label all the theoretical endeavors before the gener- 
ation of Durkheim and Max Weber as proto-sociology. With these 
figures as the outstanding ones, but with several others including a 
number of Americans like Sumner, Park, Cooley, and Thomas, in 
a somewhat less prominent role, I feel that the real job of founding 
was done in the generation from about 1890 to 1920. We belong to 
the second generation, which already has foundations on which to 
build. But as for the building itself, a post here and there, and a 
few courses of bricks at the corners, are all that is yet visible above 
the ground. After all, two or, more correctly, one and a half gen- 
erations, in the perspective of the development of a science, is a 
very short time. 

When, roughly a quarter of a century ago, I attained some degree 
of the knowledge of good and evil in a professional sense, this 
founding phase was over. The speculative systems were still taken 
seriously. But the work of such writers as Sumner, Thomas, Sim- 
mel, Cooley, Park, and Mead, was beginning to enter into thinking 
in a much more particularized sense. In fact, a research tradition 
was already building up, in which a good deal of solid theory was 
embodied— as in Sumner's basic idea of the relativity of the mores, 
Thomas' four wishes, and many of Park's insights, as into the nature 
of competitive processes. This relatively particularized, attention 
focusing, problem selecting, use of theory in research, so different 
from the purely illustrative relation between theory and empirical 
fact in the Spencerian type of system, has continued to develop in 
the interim. Such fields as that of Industrial Sociology, starting from 
the Mayo-Roethlisberger work, and carried further at Chicago and 
Cornell, the study of Ethnic Relations and that of Social Stratifi- 
cation will serve to illustrate. At the same time controversies about 
total schools, which in my youth centered especially about Behav- 
iorism, have greatly subsided. 

Our own generation has seen at least the beginnings of a process 


of more general pulling together. Even when a good deal of theory 
was actually being used in research much of the teaching of theory 
was still in terms of the "systems" of the past, and was organized 
about names rather than working conceptual schemes. Graduate 
students frantically memorized the contents of Bogardus or Lich- 
tenberger with little or no effect on their future research operations, 
and little guidance as to how it might be used. But this has grad- 
ually been changing. Theory has at least begun no longer to mean 
mainly a knowledge of "doctrines," but what matters far more, a 
set of patterns for habitual thinking. This change has, in my opinion, 
been considerably promoted by increased interest in more general 
theory, especially coming from study of the works of Weber and 
Durkheim and, though not so immediately sociological, of Freud. 
There has thus been the beginning at least, and to me a very en- 
couraging beginning, of a process of coalescence of these types of 
more or less explicit theory which were really integrated impor- 
tantly with research, into a more general theoretical tradition of 
some sophistication, really the tradition of a working professional 

Compared to the natural sciences the amount of genuine empirical 
research done in our field is very modest indeed. Even so, it has 
been fairly substantial. But the most disappointing single thing 
about it has been the degree to which the results of this work have 
failed to be cumulative. The limitations of empirical research 
methods, limitations which are being overcome at a goodly rate, are 
in part responsible for this fact. But probabhj the most crucial fac- 
tor has been precisely this lack of an adequate working theoretical 
tradition which is bred into the "bones" of empirical researchers 
themselves, so that "instinctively" the problems they work on, the 
hypotheses they frame and test, are such that the results, positive 
or negative, will have significance for a sufficiently generalized and 
integrated body of knowledge so that the mutual implications of 
many empirical studies will play directly into each other. There 
are, as I have noted, hopeful signs which point in this direction, but 
the responsibility on theory to promote this process is heavy indeed. 
So important is this point that I should like to have the view of the 
future role of theory in sociology, which I shall discuss in the re- 
mainder of this address, understood very largely in relation to it. 

When, then, I turn to the discussion of the prospects of theory in 
our field I can hardly fail to express my own hope as well as a 


diagnosis. I hope to combine in my suggestions both a sense of the 
strategic significance of certain types of development, and a realistic 
sense of feasibility, if sufficient work by able people is done. I 
shall also be talking of the relatively near future, since the shape of 
our science two centuries hence, for instance, cannot, I fear, be 
realistically foreseen. 

Here I should like to discuss five principal types or fields of 
theoretical development, which are by no means independent of 
one another; they actually overlap considerably as well as interact. 
They are: 

1) General theory, which I interpret primarily as the theory of 
the social system in its sociologically relevant aspects. 

2) The theory of motivation of social behavior and its bearing 
on the dynamic problems of social systems, its bearing both 
on the conditions of stability of social systems and the factors 
in their structural change. This of course involves the rela- 
tions to the psychological level of analysis of personality and 

3) The theoretical bases of systematic comparative analysis of 
social structures on the various levels. This particularly in- 
volves the articulation with the anthropological analysis of 

4) Special theories around particular empirical problem areas, 
the specific growing points of the field in empirical research. 
This involves their relations to general theory, and the bases 
of hypothesis construction in research. 

5 ) Last, but in no sense least, the "fitting" of theory to operational 
procedures of research and, vice versa, the adaption of the 
latter to theoretical needs. 

The field of general theory presents peculiar difficulties of assess- 
ment in sociology. The era of what I have above called "proto- 
sociology" was, as I have noted, conspicuous for the prominence of 
speculative systems, of which that of Spencer is an adequate ex- 
ample. The strong and largely justified reaction against such sys- 
tems combined with a general climate of opinion favorable to 
pragmatic empiricism, served to create in many quarters a very 
general scepticism of theory, particularly anything that called itself 
general or systematic theory, to say nothing of a system of theory. 
This wave of anti-theoretical empiricism has, I think fortunately, 
greatly subsided, but there is still marked reluctance to recognize 


the importance of high levels of generality. The most important 
recent expression of this latter sentiment, which in no sense should 
be confused with general opposition to theory, is that of my highly 
esteemed friend and former student, Robert Merton, first in his 
discussion paper directed to my own paper on the Position of Socio- 
logical Theory, two years ago, then repeated and amplified in the 
Introduction to his recent volume of essays. 

The very first point must be the emphatic statement that what I 
mean by the place of general theory in the prospects of sociology 
is not the revival of speculative systems of the Spencerian type, and 
I feel that Merton's fears that this will be the result of the em- 
phasis I have in mind are groundless. We have, I think, now pro- 
gressed to a level of metliodological sophistication adequate to 
protect ourselves against this pitfall. 

The basic reason why general theory is so important is that the 
cumulative development of knowledge in a scientific field is a 
function of the degree of generality of implications by which it is 
possible to relate findings, interpretations, and hypotheses on dif- 
ferent levels and in different specific empirical fields to each other. 
If there is to be a high degree of such generality there must on 
some level be a common conceptual scheme which makes the work 
of different investigators in a specific sub-field and those in different 
sub-fields commensurable. 

The essential difficulty with the speculative systems has been 
their premature closure without the requisite theoretical clarifica- 
tion and integration, operational techniques or empirical evidence. 
This forced them to use empirical materials in a purely illustrative 
way without systematic verification of general propositions or the 
possibility of empirical evidence leading to modification of the 
theory. Put a little differently, they presumed to set up a theoretical 
system instead of a systematic conceptual scheme. 

It seems quite clear, that in the sense of mechanics a theoretical 
system is not now or foreseeably possible in the sociological field. 
The diEBculties Pareto's attempt encountered indicate that. But a 
conceptual scheme in a partially articulated form exists now and 
is for practical purposes in common use; its further refinement and 
development is imperative for the welfare of our field, and is en- 
tirely feasible. 

In order to make clear what I mean, I would first like to note that 
there is a variety of ways in which what I am calling general theory 


can fruitfully influence research in the direction of making its 
results more cumulative. The first is what may be called a set of 
general categories of orientation to observation and problem choice 
in the field which defines its major problem areas and the directions 
in which to look for concealed factors and variables in explanation. 
Thus modern anthropology, by the "cultural point of view," heavily 
documented with comparative material, has clearly demonstrated 
the limits of purely biological explanations of human behavior and 
taught us to look to the processes by which culturally patterned 
modes are learned, transmitted and created. Similarly in our own 
field the reorientation particularly associated with the names of 
Durkheim and Weber showed the inadequacy of the "utilitarian" 
framework for the understanding of many social phenomena and 
made us look to "institutional" levels— a reorientation which is 
indeed the birthright of sociology. Finally, in the field of motivation, 
the influence of Freud's perspective has been immense. 

Starting from such very broad orientation perspectives there are 
varying possible degrees of further specification. At any rate in a 
field like ours it seems impossible to stop there. The very basis on 
which the utilitarian framework was seen to be theoretically as 
well as empirically inadequate, required a clarification of the struc- 
ture of systems of social action which went considerably farther 
than just indicating a new direction of interest or significance. It 
spelled out certain inherent relationships of the components of such 
systems which among many other things demonstrated the need for 
a theory of motivation on the psychological level of the general 
character of what Freud has provided. 

This kind of structural "spelling out" narrows the range of theo- 
retical arbitrariness. There are firmly specific points in the system 
of implications against which empirical results can be measured 
and evaluated. That is where a well-structured empirical problem 
is formulated. If the facts then, when properly stated and validated, 
turn out to be contrary to the theoretical expectation, something 
must be modified in the theory. 

In the early stages these "islands" of theoretical implication may 
be scattered far apart on the sea of fact and so vaguely and gener- 
ally seen that only relatively broad empirical statements are directly 
relevant to them. This is true of the interpretation of economic 
motivation which I will cite presently. But with refinement of gen- 
eral theoretical analysis, and the accumulation of empirical evidence 


directly relevant to it, the islands get closer and closer together, 
and their topography becomes more sharply defined. It becomes 
more and more difficult and unnecessary to navigate in the un- 
charted waters of unanalyzed fact without bumping into or at least 
orienting to several of them. 

The development of general theory in this sense is a matter of 
degree. But in proportion as it develops, the generality of implica- 
tion increases and the "degree of empiricism," to quote a phrase of 
President Conant's, is reduced. It is precisely the existence of such 
a general theoretical framework, the more so the further it has 
developed, which makes the kind of work at the middle theory 
level which Merton advocates maximally fruitful. For it is by virtue 
of their connections with these "islands" of general theoretical 
knowledge once demonstrated that their overlaps and their mutual 
implications for each other lead to their incorporation into a more 
general and consistent body of knowledge. 

At the end of this road of increasing frequency and specificity of 
the islands of theoretical knowledge lies the ideal state, scientifically 
speaking, where most actual operational hypotheses of empirical 
research are directly derived from a general system of theory. On 
any broad front, to my knowledge, only in physics has this state 
been attained in any science. We cannot expect to be anywhere 
nearly in sight of it. But it does not follow that, distant as we are 
from that goal, steps in that direction are futile. Quite the contrary, 
any real step in that direction is an advance. Only at this end point 
do the islands merge into a continental land mass. 

At the very least, then, general theory can provide a broadly 
orienting framework. It can also help to provide a common lan- 
guage to facilitate communication between workers in different 
branches of the field. It can serve to codify, interrelate and make 
available a vast amount of existing empirical knowledge. It also 
serves to call attention to gaps in our knowledge, and to provide 
canons for the criticism of theories and empirical generalizations. 
Finally, even if they cannot be systematically derived, it is indis- 
pensable to the the systematic clarification of problems and the 
fruitful formation of hypotheses. It is this organizing power of 
generalized theory even on its present levels which has made it 
possible for even a student like myself, who has done only a little 
actual empirical research, to illuminate a good many empirical 
problems and formulate suggestive hypotheses in several fields. 


Though it is not possible to take time to discuss them adequately 
for tliose not already familiar with the fields, I should like to cite 
two examples from my own experience. The first is the reorientation 
of thinking about the field of the motivation of economic activity. 
The heritage of the classical economics and the utilitarian frame of 
reference, integrated with the central ideology of our society, had 
put the problem of the "incentives" involved in the "profit system" 
in a very particular way which had become the object of much 
controversy. Application of the emerging general theory of the 
institutionalization of motivation, specifically pointed up by the 
analysis of the contrast between the orientation of the professional 
groups and that of the business world, made it possible to work out 
a very fruitful reorientation to this range of problems. This new 
view eliminates the alleged absoluteness of the orientation to "self- 
interest" held to be inherent in "human nature." It emphasizes the 
crucial role of institutional definitions of the situation and the ways 
in which they channel many different components of a total moti- 
vation system into the path of conformity with institutionalized 
expectations. Without the general theoretical reorientation stem- 
ming mainly from Durkheim and Weber, this restructuring of the 
problem of economic motivation would not have been possible. 

The second example illustrates the procedure by which it has 
become possible to make use of psychological knowledge in analyz- 
ing social phenomena without resort to certain kinds of "psycho- 
logical interpretations" of the type which most sociologists have 
quite correctly repudiated. Such a phenomenon is the American 
"youth culture" with its rebellion against adult standards and con- 
trol, its compulsive conformity within the peer group, its romanti- 
cism and its irresponsibility. Structural analysis of the American 
family system as the primary field of socialization of the child 
provides the primary setting. This in turn must be seen both in the 
perspective of the comparative variability of kinship structures and 
of the articulation of the family with other elements of our own 
social structure, notably the occupational role of the father. Only 
when this structural setting has been carefully analyzed in socio- 
logical terms does it become safe to bring in analysis of the opera- 
tion of psychological mechanisms in terms derived particularly from 
psychoanalytic theory, and to make such statements as that the 
"revolt of youth" contains typically an element of reaction-forma- 
tion against dependency needs with certain types of consequences. 


Again this type of analysis would not have been possible without 
the general reorientation of thinking about the relations between 
social structure and the psychological aspects of behavior which 
has resulted from the developments in general theory in the last 
generation or more; including explicit use of the contributions of 

Perhaps I may pause in midpassage to apologize for inflicting on 
you on such an occasion, when your well-filled stomachs predispose 
you to relaxation rather than close attention, such an abstruse 
theoretical discourse. I feel the apology is necessary since what I 
am about to inflict on you is even more abstruse than what has 
gone before. Since I am emphasizing the integration of theory with 
empirical research, I might suggest that someone among you might 
want to undertake a little research project to determine the impact 
on a well-fed group of sociologists of such a discourse. I might 
suggest the following four categories for his classification. 

1 ) Those who have understood what I have said, whether they 
approve of it or not. 

2) Those who think they have understood it. 

3) Those who do not think they have but wish they had, and 

4) Those who didn't understand, know it and are glad of it. 

I can only hope that the overwhelming majority will not be found 
to fall in the fourth category. 

With relatively little alteration, everything I have said up to this 
point had been written, and has deliberately been left standing, 
when I underwent an important personal experience which pro- 
duced what I hope will prove to be a significant theoretical advance 
precisely in the field of general theory. With the very able colla- 
boration of several of my own Harvard colleagues and of Professors 
Tolman of California and Shils of Chicago, the present semester has 
been devoted to attempting to practice what I have preached, 
namely to press forward with systematic work in the field of gen- 
eral theory. Partly because of the intrinsic importance of the fields, 
partly because of its urgency in a department committed to the 
synthesis of sociology with parts of psychology and anthropology, 
we have been devoting our principal energies to the interrelations 
and common ground of the three branches of the larger field of 
social relations. 

This new development, which is still too new for anything like 
adequate assessment, seems to consist essentially in a method of 


considerably increasing the number of theoretically known islands 
in the sea of social phenomena and thereby narrowing the stretches 
of uncharted water between them. The essential new insight, which 
unfortunately is not easy to state, concerns the most general aspects 
of the conception of the components of systems of social action and 
their relations to each other. 

It seems to have been the previous assumption, largely implicit, 
for instance, in the thinking of Weber, of W. I. Thomas, and in my 
own, that there was, as it were, one "action-equation." The actor 
was placed on one side— "oriented to" a situation or a world of ob- 
jects which constituted the other side. The difficulty concerned the 
status of "values" in action, not as the motivational act of "evalu- 
ation" of an object, but as the standard by which it was evaluated 
—in short, the concept "value-attitudes" which some of you will 
remember from my Structure of Social Action. I, following Weber, 
had tended to put value-standards or modes of value-orientation 
into the actor. Thomas and Znaniecki in their basic distinction be- 
tween attitudes and values had put them into the object-system. 

We have all long been aware that there were three main prob- 
lem foci in the most general theory of human behavior which we 
may most generally call those of personality, of culture, and of 
social structure. But in spite of this awareness, I think we have 
tended to follow the biological model of thought— an organism and 
its environment, an actor and his situations. We have not really 
treated culture as independent, or if that has been done, as by 
some anthropologists, the tendency has been for them in turn to 
absorb either personality or social structure into culture, especially 
the latter, to the great discomfort of many sociologists. What we 
have done, which I wish to report is, I think, to take an important 
step toward drawing out for working theory the implications of 
the fundamental fact that man is a culture-bearing animal. 

Our conclusion then is that value-standards or modes of value- 
orientation should be treated as a distinct range of components of 
action. In the older view the basic components could be set forth 
in a single "table" by classifying the modes of action or motiva- 
tional orientation which we have found it convenient to distinguish 
as cognitive mapping (in Tolman's sense), cathectic (in the psy- 
choanalytic sense) and evaluative, against a classification of the 
significant aspects or modalities of objects. These latter we have 
classified as quality complexes or attributes of persons and col- 


lectivities, action or performance complexes, and non-human en- 
vironmental factors. By adding values as a fourth column to this 
classification, this had seemed to yield an adequate paradigm for 
the structural components of action-systems. 

But something about this paradigm did not quite "click." It 
almost suddenly occurred to us to "pull" the value-element out 
and put it into a separate range, with a classification of its own 
into three modes of value-orientation: cognitive (in the standard, 
not content, sense), appreciative and moral. This gave us a para- 
digm of three "dimensions" in which each of the three ranges or 
sets of modes is classified against each of the other two. 

This transformation opened up new possibilities of logical devel- 
opment and elaboration which are much too complex and tech- 
nical to enter into here. Indeed the implications are as yet only 
very incompletely worked out or critically evaluated and it will be 
many months before they are in shape for publication. But certain 
of them are sufficiently clear to give me at any rate the conviction 
that they are of considerable importance, and taken together, will 
constitute a substantial further step in the direction of unifying our 
theoretical knowledge and broadening the range of generality of 
implication, with the probable consequence of contributing sub- 
stantially to the cumulativeness of our empirical research. 

Certain of these implications, which in broad outline already 
seem clear, touch two of the subjects on which I intended to speak 
anyway and can, I think, now speak much better. The first of these 
is the very fundamental one of the connection of the theories of 
motivation and personality structure on the psychological level 
with the sociological analysis of social structure. The vital impor- 
tance of this connection is evident to all of us, and many sociologists 
have been working away at the field for a long time. Seen in the 
perspective of the years, I think great progress has been made. 
The kind of impasse where "psychology is psychology" and "so- 
ciology is sociology" and "never the twain shall meet," which was a 
far from uncommon feeling in the early stages of my career, has 
almost evaporated. There is a rapidly increasing and broadening 
area of mutual supplementation. 

What has happened in our group opens up, I think, a way to 
eliminating the sources of some of the remaining theoretical difli- 
culties in this field, and still more important, building the founda- 
tions for establishing more direct and specific connections than 


we have hitherto been able to attain. I should like to indicate some 
of these in two fields. 

The first is the less radical. We have long suspected, indeed on 
some level, known, that the basic structure of the human personality 
was intimately involved with the social structure as well as vice 
versa. Indeed some have gone so far as to consider personality to 
be a direct "microcosm" of the society. Now, however, we have 
begun to achieve a considerable clarification of the bases on which 
this intimacy of involvement rests, and to bring personality, con- 
ceptually as well as genetically, into relation with social structure. 
It goes back essentially to the insight that the major axis around 
which the expectation-system of any personality becomes organized 
in the process of socialization is its interlocking with the expecta- 
tion-systems of others, so that the mutuality of socially structured 
relationship patterns can no longer be thought of as a resultant of 
the motivation-systems of a plurality of actors, but becomes directly 
and fundamentally constitutive of those motivation systems. It has 
seemed to us possible in terms of this reoriented conception to 
bring large parts both of Tolman's type of behavior theory and the 
psychoanalytic type of theory of personality, including such related 
versions as that of Murray, together in a close relation to socio- 
logical theory. Perhaps the farthest we had dared to go before was 
to say something like that we considered social structure and per- 
sonality were very closely related and intimately interacting sys- 
tems of human action. Now I think it will probably prove safe to 
say that they are in a theoretical sense different phases or aspects 
of the same fundamental action-system. This does not in the least 
mean, I hasten to add, that personality is in danger of being "ab- 
sorbed" into the social system, as one version of Durkheim's theory 
seemed to indicate. The distinction between the personality "level" 
of the organization of action and the social system level remains as 
vital as it ever was. But the theoretical continuity, and hence the 
possibility of using psychological theory in the motivation field for 
sociological explanation, have been greatly enhanced. 

The second point I had in mind is essentially an extension of this 
one or an application of it. As those of you famUiar with some of 
my own writing since the Structure of Social Action know, for 
some years I have been "playing" with a scheme of what I have 
found it convenient to call "pattern variables" in the field of social 
structure, which were originally derived by an analytical break- 


down of Toennies' GemeinscJmft-GcseUschaft pair into what seemed 
to be more elementary components. This yielded such distinctions 
as that between universalism, as illustrated in technical competence 
or the "rule of law," and particularism as given in kinship or friend- 
ship relations, or to take another case, between the "functional 
specificity" of an economic exchange relationship and the "func- 
tional diffuseness" of marriage. Thus to take an illustration from my 
own work, the judgment of his technical competence on which 
the choice of a physician is supposed to rest is a universalistic cri- 
terion. Deviantly from the ideal pattern, however, some people 
choose a physician because he is Mary Smith's brother-in-law. This 
would be a particularistic criterion. Similarly the basis on which a 
physician may validate his claim to confidential information about his 
patient's private life is that it is necessary if he is to perform the 
specific function of caring for the patient's health. But the basis 
of a wife's claim to a truthful answer to the question "what were 
you doing last night that kept you out till thi-ee in the morning?" 
is the generally diffuse obligation of loyalty in the marriage rela- 

Again I cannot take time to go into the technicalities. But the 
theoretical development of which I have spoken has already indi- 
cated two significant results. First it has brought a scheme of five 
such pattern variables— the four I had been using, with the addition 
of the distinction of ascription and achievement which Linton first 
introduced into our conceptual armory— into a direct and funda- 
mental relation to the structure of action systems themselves. These 
concepts can now be systematically derived from the basic frame 
of reference of action theory, which was not previously possible. 

Secondly, however, it appears that tlie same basic distinctions, 
which were all worked out for the analysis of social structure, can, 
when rephrased in accord with psychological perspective, be iden- 
tified as fundamental points of reference for the structuring of per- 
sonality also. Thus what sociologically is called universalism in a 
social role definition can be psychologically interpreted as the im- 
pact of the mechanism of generalization in object-orientation and 
object choice. Correspondingly, what on the sociological level has 
been called the institutionalization of "affective neutrality" turns 
out to be essentially the same as the imposition of renunciation of 
immediate gratification in the interests of the disciplined organ- 
ization and longer-run goals of the personality. 


If this correspondence holds up, and I feel confident that it will, 
its implications for social science may be far reaching. For what 
these variables do on the personality level is to serve as foci for the 
structuring of the system of predispositions or needs. But it is pre- 
cisely this aspect of psychological theory which is of most impor- 
tance for the sociologist since it yields the differentiations of moti- 
vational orientation which are crucial to the understanding of so- 
cially structured behavior. Empirically we have known a good deal 
about these diflFerentiations, but theoretically we have not been able 
to connect them up in a systematically generalized way. It looks as 
though an important step in this direction had now become possible. 
With regard to its potential importance, I may only mention the 
extent to which studies of the distribution of attitudes have come 
to occupy a central place in the empirical work both of sociologists 
and of social psychologists. The connection of these distribution 
data with the social structure on the one hand and the structure 
of motivational predispositions on the other has had to a high de- 
gree to be treated in empirically ad hoc terms. Any step in the 
direction of "reducing the degree of empiricism" in such an area 
will constitute a substantial scientific advance, I think it is prob- 
able that such an advance is in sight, which, if validated, will have 
developed from work in general theory. 

Let us now turn to the other major theoretical field, the systema- 
tization of the bases for comparative analysis of social structures. 
First I should like to call attention to the acute embarrassment we 
have had to suffer in this field. On the level of what I have made 
bold to call "proto-sociology" it was thought that this problem was 
solved by the implications of the evolutionary formulae which ar- 
ranged all possible structural types in a neat evolutionary series 
which ipso facto established both their comparability and their 
dynamic relationships. Unfortunately, from one point of view, this 
synthesis turned out to be premature; but from another this was 
fortunate, for in one sense the realization of this fact was the start- 
ing point of the transition from proto-sociology to real sociology. 
At any rate, in spite of the magnificence of Max Weber's attempt, 
the basic classificatory problem, the solution of which must under- 
lie the achievement of high theoretical generality in much of our 
field, has remained basically unsolved. 

As so often happens there has been a good deal of underground 
ferment going on in such a field before the results have begun to 


become widely visible. There are, I think, signs of important pro- 
gress. One of these is the great step toward the systematization of 
the variability of kinship structure which our anthropological col- 
league, Professor Murdock, has reported in his recent book. For 
one critically important structural field we can now say that many 
of the basic problems have been solved. But this still leaves much 
to be worked out, particularly in the fields of more complex institu- 
tional variability in the literate societies, in such areas as occupa- 
tion, religion, formal organization, social stratification and govern- 

Just as in the problem of the motivation of socially structured 
behavior our relations to psychology become peculiarly crucial and 
intimate, so in that of systematizing the structural variability of 
social systems, our relations to anthropology are correspondingly 
crucial. This, of course, is because of the ways in which the basic 
cultural orientations underlie and interpenetrate the structuring of 
social systems on the action level. Anything, therefore, which can 
help to clarify the most fundamental problems of the ways in which 
values and other cultural orientation elements are involved in action 
systems should sooner or later contribute to this sociological 

In general, anthropological theory in the culture field has in this 
respect been disappointing, not that it has not provided many em- 
pirical insights, which it certainly has, but precisely in terms of 
the present interest in systematization. I am happy to report that 
my colleague. Dr. Florence Kluckhohn has, in yet unpublished 
work, made some promising suggestions the implications of which 
will, I think, turn out to be of great importance. In what follows I 
wish gratefully to acknowledge my debt to her work. 

In this connection it is important that the central new theoretical 
insight to which I have referred above came precisely in this field, 
in a new view of the way values are related to action. The essence 
of this is the analytical independence of value-orientation relative 
to the psychological aspects of motivation. It introduces an element 
of "play" into what had previously been a much more rigid relation, 
this rigidity having much to do with the unfortunate clash of so- 
ciological and anthropological "imperialisms." 

The independence of value-orientation encourages the search for 
elements of structural focus in that area. The "problem areas" of 
value-choice seem to provide one set of such foci, that is, the evalu- 


ation of man's relation to the natural environment, to his biologi- 
cal nature and the like. But along with these there are foci differ- 
entiating the alternatives of the basic "directionality" of value- 
orientation itself. In this connection, it has become possible to see 
that a fundamental congruence exists between at least one part in 
the set of "pattern variables" mentioned above, that of universalism 
and particularism, and Max Weber's distinction, which runs 
throughout his sociology of religion, between transcendent and im- 
minent orientations, the Western, especially Calvinistic orientation, 
illustrating the former, the Chinese the latter. 

Bringing such a differentiation in relation to basic orientation-foci 
together with the problem foci seems to provide at least an initial 
and tentative basis for working out a systematic classification of 
some major possibilities of cultural orientation in their relevance to 
differentiations of social structure. Then through the congruence 
of these with the possible combinations of the values of pattern 
variables in the structuring of social roles themselves, it seems pos- 
sible further to clarify some of the modes of articulation of the 
variability of cultural orientations with that of the structure of the 
social systems which are their bearers and, in the processes of 
culture change, their creators. 

In this field even more than that of the relation between social 
structure and motivation, what I am in a position to give you now 
is not a report of theoretical work accomplished, but a vision of 
what can be accomplished if the requisite hard and competent 
work is done. This vision is not, however, I think, mere wishful 
thinking. I think we have gone far enough so that we can see real 
possibilities. We are in a position to organize a directed and con- 
certed effort with definite goals, not merely to grope about in the 
hope that something will come out of it. 

It seems to me that the importance of progress in this field of 
structural analysis which attempts to establish the bases of com- 
parability of social structures can scarcely be exaggerated. I have 
indeed felt for some time that the fact that we had not been able 
to go farther in this direction was a more serious barrier to the all- 
important generality and cumulativeness of our knowledge than 
was the difficulty of adequately linking the analysis of social struc- 
ture to psychological levels of the understanding of motivation. 

The problem of the importance of structural variability and its 
analy.sis is most obvious when we are dealing with the broad 


structural contrasts between widely differing societies. It is, how- 
ever, a serious error to suppose that its importance is confined to 
this level. Every society, seen close to, is to an important degree a 
microcosm of the various possibilities of the structuring of human 
relationships all over the world and throughout history. The vari- 
ability within the same society, though subtler and less easy to 
analyze, is none the less authentic. 

Of course in any one society sojne possibilities of structural vari- 
ability are excluded altogether, or can appear only as radically 
deviant phenomena. But it must not be assumed that in spite of 
its conformity to a broad general type, the American middleclass 
family for instance is, precisely in terms of social structure, a uni- 
form cut-and-dried thing. It is a complex of many importantly 
variant sub-types. For some sociological problems it may be pre- 
cisely the structural differentiations between and distribution of 
these sub-types which constitute the most important data. To say 
merely that these are middle-class families will not solve such prob- 
lems. But it is not necessary for the sociologist to stop there and re- 
sort to "purely psychological" considerations. He can and should 
push his distinctive type of structural analysis on down to these 
levels of "minor" variability. 

In the present state of knowledge, or that of the foreseeable fu- 
ture, we are bound to a "structural-functional" level of theory. 
There will continue to be long stretches of open water between our 
islands of validated theory. In this situation we cannot achieve 
a high level of dynamic generalization for processes and inter- 
dependences even within the same society, unless our ranges of 
structural variability are really systematized so that when we get 
a shift from one to another we know what has changed, to what 
and in wliat degree. This order of systematization can, like all 
theoretical work, be verified only by empirical research. But experi- 
ence shows that it cannot be worked out by sheer ad Jwc empirical 
induction, letting the facts reveal their own pattern. It must be 
worked out by rigorous theoretical analysis, continually stimulat- 
ing and being checked by empirical research. In sum I think this is 
one of the very few most vital areas for the development of socio- 
logical theory, and here as in the other I think the prospects are 

The above two broad areas of prospective theoretical advance 
are so close to the most general of general theory that they would 


scarcely qualify as falling within the area of "special theories," 
which was tlie fourth area about which I wanted to talk. I have 
precisely taken so much time to discuss these because of their im- 
portance for more special theories. I am very far indeed from wish- 
ing to disparage the importance of this more special and in one 
sense more modest type of theoretical work; quite the contrary. It 
is here that the growing points of theory in their direct working 
interaction with empirical research are to be found. If the state 
of affairs at that level cannot be healthy we should indeed despair 
of our science. 

I will go farther. It seems to me precisely that the fact that real 
working theory at the research levels did not exist and was not 
developed in connection with them was perhaps the most telling 
symptom that the "speculative systems" of which I have spoken 
were only pseudo-scientific, not genuinely so. Most emphatically I 
wish to say that the general theory on which I have placed such 
emphasis can only be justified in so far as it "spells out" on the 
research level, providing the more generalized conceptual basis for 
the frames of reference, problem statements and hypotheses, and 
many of the operating concepts of research. In these terms it un- 
derlines the problem-setting of research, it provides criteria of more 
generalized significance of the problem and its empirical solution, 
it provides the basis on which the results of one empirical study 
become fruitful, not merely in the particular empirical field itself, 
but beyond it for other fields; that is for what above I have called 
its generality of implication. In my opinion it is precisely because 
of its orientation to a sound tradition of general theory, however 
incomplete and faulty, that the particular theories which are devel- 
oping so rapidly in many branches of the field are so highly impor- 
tant and promising for the future. Let us, by all means, work most 
intensively on the middle theory level. That way lies real maturity 
as a science, and the ultimate test of whether the general theory is 
any good. And of course many of the most important contributions 
to general theory will come from this source. 

This brings me finally to the fifth point on my agenda, the fitting 
in of theory with the operational procedures of research. Thus far 
I have been talking to you about theory, but I was careful to note 
at the outset that however important an ingredient of the scientific 
brew theory may be, it is only one of the ingredients. If it is to be 
scientific theory it must be tied in, in the closest possible manner. 


with the techniques of empirical research by which alone we can 
come to know whether our theoretical ideas are "really so" or just 
speculations of peculiar if not disordered minds. 

Anyone who has observed the social science scene in this country 
over the past quarter century cannot fail to be impressed by the very 
great development of research technique in our field, in very many 
of its branches. Sampling has come in to make it possible for the 
social scientist to manufacture his own statistical data, instead of 
having to work only with the by-products of other interests. Tech- 
niques of statistical analysis themselves have undergone an im- 
mense amount of refinement, for example, in the development of 
scaling procedures. An altogether new level has already been at- 
tained in the collection and processing of raw data, as through 
questionnaire and interview, and the development of coding skills 
and the like. I used to think that the construction of a questionnaire 
was something any old dub could dream up if he only knew what 
information he wanted. I have learned better. The whole immense 
development of interviewing techniques with its range from psycho- 
analysis to Gallup and Roper lies almost within the time period we 
are talking about. The possibilities of the use of projective tech- 
niques in sociological research are definitely exciting. The Cross- 
Cultural Survey (now rechristened ) and Mr. Watson of I.B.M. vie 
with each other to create more elaborate gadgets for the social 
scientist to play with. We have even, as in the communications and 
the small groups fields, begun to get somewhere with relatively 
rigorous experimental methods in sociology, no longer only in psy- 
chology among the sciences of human behavior. 

This whole development is, in my opinion, in the larger picture 
at least as important as that of theory. It is, furthermore, exceed- 
ingly impressive, not merely for its accomplishments to date, im- 
portant as these are, but still more for its promise for the future. 
There is a veritable ferment of invention going on in this area 
which is in the very best American tradition. 

If I correctly assess the recipe for a really good brew of social 
science it is absolutely imperative that these two basic ingredients 
should get together and blend with each other. I do not think it 
fair to say that we are still in the stage of proto-science. But we are 
unquestionably in that of a distinctly iminature science. If it is 
really to grow up and not regress into either of the two futilities of 
empiricist sterility or empirically irrelevant speculation, the syn- 


thesis must take place. In this as in other respects the beginning 
certainly has already been made but we must be quite clear that 
it is only a beginning. 

This is a point where a division of labor is very much in order. 
It surely is not reasonable to suppose that all sociologists should 
become fully qualified specialists in theory and the most highly 
skilled research technicians at the same time. Some will, indeed 
must, have high orders of competence on both sides, but this will 
not be true of all. But the essential is that there should be a genu- 
ine division of labor. That means that all parties should directly 
contribute to the effectiveness of the whole. For the theoretical side 
this imposes an obligation to get together with the best research 
people and make every efiFort to make their theory researchable in 
the highest sense. For the research technician it implies the obliga- 
tion to fit his operational procedures to the needs of theory as 
closely as he can. 

It has been in the nature of the circumstances and processes of 
the historical development of theory that much of its empirical 
relevance has heretofore been made clear and explicit only on the 
level of "broad" observations of fact which were not checked and 
elaborated by really technical procedures. The value of this, as for 
instance it has appeared in the comparative institutional field, 
should not be minimized. But clearly this order of empirical vali- 
dation is only a beginning. For opening the doors to much greater 
progress it is necessary to be able to put the relevant content of 
theory in terms which the empirical research operator can directly 
build into his technical operations. This is a major reason why the 
middle theories are so important, because it is on that level that 
theory will get directly into research techniques and vice versa. 
Again in this field the beginnings I happen to know about are suffi- 
ciently promising so that I think we can say that the prospects are 

Theory has its justification only as part of the larger total of so- 
ciological science as a whole. Perhaps in closing I may be permitted 
a few general remarks about the prospects of sociology as a science. 
I have great confidence that they are good, a solider and stronger 
confidence than at any time in my own professional lifetime, pro- 
vided of course that the social setting for its development remains 
reasonably stable and favorable. 

These prospects are, however, bound up with the fulfillment of 


certain internal as well as external conditions. One of the most im- 
portant of these on which I would like to say a word, is a proper 
balance between fundamental research, including its theoretical 
aspect, and applied or "engineering" work. This problem is of course 
of particular interest to our friends in the Conference on Family 
Welfare. Both the urgencies of the times and the nature of our 
American ethos make it unthinkable that social scientists as a pro- 
fessional group should shirk their social responsibilities. They, like 
the medical profession, must do what they can where they are 
needed. Indeed it is only on this assumption that they will do so 
that not only the very considerable financial investment of society 
in their work, but the interferences in other people's affairs which 
are inevitably bound up with our research, can be justified. 

It is not a question of whether we try to live up to our social re- 
sponsibilities, but of how. If we should put the overwhelming bulk 
of our resources, especially of trained talent, into immediately 
practical problems it would do some good, but I have no doubt 
that it would have to be at the expense of our greater usefulness to 
society in the future. For it is only by systematic work on problems 
where the probable scientific significance has priority over any im- 
mediate possibility of application that the greatest and most rapid 
scientific advance can be made. And it is in proportion as sociology 
attains stature as a science, with a highly generalized and integrated 
body of fundamental knowledge, that practical usefulness far be- 
yond the present levels will become possible. This conclusion fol- 
lows most directly from the role of theory, as I have tried to outline 
it above. If the prospects of sociological theory are good, so are, I 
am convinced, those of sociology as a science, but onhj if the scien- 
tifically fundamental work is done. Let us, by all means, not be 
stingy with the few golden eggs we now have. But let us also breed 
a flock of geese of the sort that we can hope will lay many more 
than we have yet dreamed of. 

One final word. Like all branches of American culture, the roots 
of sociology as a science are deep in Euroj)e. Yet I like to think of 
sociology as in some sense peculiarly an American discipline, or at 
least an American opportunity. There is no doubt that we have the 
leadership now. Our very lack of traditionalism perhaps makes it in 
some ways easier for us than for some others to delve deeply into 
the mysteries of how human action in society ticks. We certainly 
have all the makings for developing the technical know-how of re- 


search. We are good at organization which is coming to play an 
increasingly indispensable part in research. 

It is my judgment that a great opportunity exists. Things have 
gone far enough so that it seems likely that sociology, in the closest 
connection with its sister-sciences of psychology and anthropology, 
stands near the beginning of one of those important configurations 
of culture growth which Professor Kroeber has so illuminatingly 
analyzed. Can American sociology seize this opportunity? One of 
our greatest national resources is the capacity to rise to a great 
challenge once it is put before us. 

We can do it if we can put together the right combination of in- 
gredients of the brew. Americans as scientists generally have been 
exceptionally strong on experimental work and empirical research. 
I have no doubt whatever of the capacity of American sociologists 
in this respect. But as theorists Americans have, relative to Euro- 
peans, not been so strong— hence the special challenge of the theo- 
retical development of our field which justifies the theme of this 
address. If we American sociologists can rise to this part of the 
challenge the job will really get done. We are not in the habit of 
listening too carefully to the timid souls who say, why try, it can't 
be done. I think we have already taken up the challenge all along 
the line. "The sociology," as my children called it, is not about to 
begin. It has been gathering force for a generation and is now really 
under way. 


A Sociologist Looks at the 
Legal Profession * 

AS A SOCIOLOGIST I am in no sense an expert in the law or the afiFairs 
of the legal profession. Worse than that, even from my own pro- 
fessional vantage point I have never made any special study of the 
law or of lawyers. My only claim to be able to say anything of in- 
terest to a group of lawyers on this occasion is that I have been 
concerned in a broad way with the structure and functioning of 
modern societies, particularly that of the United States and, in that 
connection have had a special interest in the place of the profes- 
sions in such societies. What I can provide, therefore, is only the 
kind of perspective an outsider is capable of, not the intimate 
knowledge that a direct student or participant would have. 

I should like to begin with two very general observations, one 
about our society in general, the other about the historic place of 
the legal profession in it. The great ideological conflict of our time 
throughout the whole western world, has been between the pro- 
ponents of the merits of "capitalism" or "free enterprise" as a "sys- 
tem" and "socialism" as a system, whether or not in its communist 
variety. The proponents of the former have freely included the "profit 
motive" among the central features and, from their point of view 
virtues, of the free enterprise system, while the proponents of so- 
cialism have looked askance on the entrusting of any serious social 
responsibilities to agencies otlier than those of public authority. 

It is curious that in this conflict the ideologists of both camps 
have, as interpreters of the contemporary scene, almost completely 
overlooked the presence and strategic significance in our society of 
a set of occupational groups which are not either in their own 
opinion or by and large in the public estimation, devoted mainly 

"The substance of this paper was presented at the first symposium on the 
occasion of the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the University of Chicago 
Law School, Chicago, 111., Dec. 4, 1952. 


to the goal of their own profit, but rather in some sense to "serv- 
ice," but which equally are not composed primarily of civil servants, 
though a considerable proportion of them are in government em- 
ploy, namely the professions. But the comparative historical evi- 
dence about societies shows very clearly that the status of the pro- 
fessions in our society is unique in history. Famous as the Roman 
lawyers were, the development of law as a profession is certainly 
far greater today, and tlie doctor, the engineer, the university pro- 
fessor, and a variety of others were only in their barest beginnings 
at that time compared with their present status. It is a curious para- 
dox that this key group, who are the primary spearheads of the 
development of science and its practical applications, of the edu- 
cation of our people and the trustees of its legal traditions, should 
not find an important place in either of the great competing ideo- 
logical systems of the time. A proper appraisal of their significance 
seems to me an important part of an adequate orientation of our 
people to their world. 

The second observation concerns a very broad fact about the 
history of the legal profession. As it emerged into some prominence 
in the late Middle Ages, particularly with the revival of Roman Law 
in the Italian Universities, though closely connected with the de- 
velopment of the modern secular state, it is probably correct to say 
that from the beginning the lawyers maintained a certain inde- 
pendence of political authority as such. The lawyer, though in many 
respects dependent on princes, was to some extent always an inde- 
pendent expert whose doctrines with respect to the law were by no 
means simply a special mode of expression of the power interests of 
his political superiors. This is a fact which is characteristic of the 
professions generally and has been so of the law from the beginning 
of its modern history. 

In the following brief discussion, a certain kind of abstraction will 
necessarily be observed. Some in particular, including some law- 
yers, will feel when I am through that too "rosy" a picture of the 
legal profession has been painted. This is almost inevitable when 
the aim is to bring to attention certain aspects of what sociologists 
call the "latent functions" of a set of social institutions. This anal- 
ysis will be devoted mainly to this task and should therefore not be 
considered a general appraisal of the value of the legal profession. 
A few indications will be given of points at which deviant tend- 
encies take hold, as in overcompliance with the pressures of client 


interest, sentimentality and formalism. But assessment of just how 
far these, and possible other types of deviance go, is a complex 
question which should not be prejudged. There is almost certainly 
some truth in the old adage "where there is smoke tliere must be 
fire." But at the same time there is ample sociological evidence of 
ideological distortion in the other direction. There are many rea- 
sons why the legal profession is a convenient scapegoat for a variety 
of groups in society. Any competent analysis and appraisal of these 
less rosy aspects of the place of the profession in our society would 
require analysis and extensive research. A proper appreciation of 
tlie positive side of the case is an essential condition of evaluation 
of the other side of the coin. 

I would now like to review a few considerations about the modern 
American legal profession in the context of the general place of 
the professions in our society. In sociological terminology, a profes- 
sion is a cluster of "occupational" roles, that is roles in which the 
incumbents perform certain functions valued in the society in 
general, and by these activities, typically "earn a living" at a "full- 
time job." Among occupational role-types, the professional is dis- 
tinguished largely by the independent trusteeship exercised by the 
incumbents of a class of such roles of an important part of the 
major cultural tradition of the society. This means that its typical 
member is trained in that tradition, usually by a formally organized 
educational process, so that only those with the proper training are 
considered qualified to practice the profession. Furthermore only 
members of the profession are treated as qualified to interpret the 
tradition authoritatively and, if it admits of this, to develop and im- 
prove it. Finally, though there usually is considerable division of 
labor within such a group, a substantial proportion of the members 
of the profession will be concerned largely with the "practical ap- 
plication" of the tradition to a variety of situations where it can be 
useful to others than the members of the profession itself. The 
professional man is thus a "technical expert" of some order by virtue 
of his mastery of the tradition and the skills of its use. 

In view of the central importance of expertness is relation to the 
mastery of a cultural tradition as a criterion of a professional role, 
a few words need to be said about what, from a sociologist's point 
of view, are the most important features of the Law as a cultural 
tradition and its place in the society. Law, of course, consists in a 
body of norms or rules governing human conduct in social situations, 


that is involving the relations of men to other men. Following Dean 
Pound I may distinguish law from other bodies of such rules, such 
as those governing the aflFairs of "private" organizations, as such 
rules as have come to be considered to be of sufficient public con- 
cern as to be formally sanctioned by "politically organized society." 
It is first essential to keep in mind that there is no clear and in- 
herent hue between what is and is not the concern of politically 
organized society and thus of the law as such. It is a rather indefi- 
nite line and with legislation and court decision, even with ad- 
ministrative ruling, a continually shifting line. That the "formal" 
law in this sense merges into what sociologists call "informal social 
control" is a fact of the first importance. 

To use a classification entirely familiar to lawyers it may be said 
that legal rules fall into four categories. They may be said to include 
first prohibitions, second explicit permissions, that is sanctioning 
of acts about the legitimacy of which doubt might be raised (this 
is an important aspect of what are called "rights") and prescrip- 
tions, that is injunctions that under defined conditions certain 
positive performances (obligations) must be undertaken. Back of 
these more specific "doctrines" of law of course lie certain "stand- 
ards" of apphcability such as "due process of law," "due care" or 
"knowledge of the difference of right from wrong." The fourth 
class of rules are the procedural which state not substantively what 
men are expected to do or not to do, but what in relation to legal 
agencies is the proper procedure for determining or enforcing their 
rights, or, vice versa, for agencies of the law in determining and 
enforcing obligations. The central importance of the procedural 
component of our own legal tradition is of course evident. 

This legal tradition of ours exists in an extremely complex and 
dynamically changing society. It rests on certain authoritative writ- 
ten sources of which the federal and state constitutions are of 
course the focus, and certain formally legitimized processes of 
change, of which ordinary legislation and the processes of constitu- 
tional amendment are the obvious ones. But the very existence of 
the legal profession as an entity in the society is a result of the fact 
that the maintenance of such a tradition in terms of its own inte- 
gration and continuity, and its application in relation to our multi- 
farious system of social interests would not be possible without some 
powerful intermediate mechanism operating between the political 
organs which carry ultimate legal authority, the constitutional docu- 


ments and the formal acts of legislatures, and the actual implemen- 
tation of legal control of going social processes. 

The legal profession is not the only mechanism which operates 
in this context. The various other channels through which both 
legislation and the executive action of government are influenced 
are also involved.^ The legal profession is, however, one of the 
most important of these, in a broad perspective, probably the most 

As such the profession has certain exceedingly important socio- 
logical characteristics. First it is in a curiously ambiguous position 
of dependence and independence with reference to the state. The 
laws for which it is responsible are official enactments of the state. 
Part of its structure, the courts, the departments of justice, the at- 
torneys general et cetera, are directly organs of the political author- 
ity. The member of the bar is formally an "officer of the court," and 
for example, disbarment is an act of the political authority. 

At the same time, and at least equally important, the profession 
is independent of political authority. Even judges, though public 
officials, are treated as in a special class with special immunities. 
The ordinary member of the bar is not paid by public authority but 
by his clients. The bar associations are most definitely not organs 
of the state, but private associations of their members. Finally, and 
by no means least, the law schools, with their critically important 
functions in the training of lawyers, are equally definitely not 
organs of the state, but integral parts of the universities. Thus, as I 
have said, the profession is, subject to certain checks on the part 
both of the state and of the non-legal elements of the control of 
universities, to say nothing of the influence of clients, given an 
independent position. That, however, this is regarded as a position 
of "trusteeshi])" is above all evident in the classification of the law 
as a profession and not as a "business." The relation of attorney and 
client is a relation of "trust" not of competition for profit; the client's 
fee is for "service," not simply the best "bargain" he can get in a 
competitive market; his communications to his attorney are pro- 

1 For example "lobbying" is a favorite scapegoat of much public discussion, 
and there are undoubtedly many abuses in this field. But if legislators attempted 
to act only in terms of their independent "convictions" without continual 
communication with their constituents as to what was needed and what would 
be workable, it is likely that very serious trouble would result. What is needed 
is not to prevent people outside legislatures from having any influence on 
legislation but to insure that the channels of influence are "representative," 
that competition between different "interests" is "fair" and hence tliat influ- 
ence is not "undue.") 


tected by law as confidential and cannot be revealed in the attor- 
ney's or any other interest.^ 

The position of the legal profession in the social structure is thus 
an "interstitial" one, and this is one of the most important facts 
about it. It is, in the first place, not only "oriented to" but to an 
important degree "integrated with" the structure of political author- 
ity. But secondly, it is organized around partly independent trus- 
teeship of the legal tradition, with respect to which it has inde- 
pendent, formally and informally recognized monopolistic prero- 
gative; thus in general only properly trained and validated lawyers 
are elected or appointed to judicial oflBce. Finally, third, the pro- 
fession has most of its dealings with private persons, individual and 
corporate, and is very closely involved with their affairs and in- 
terests, so much so that the charge of being merely a "tool" of these 
interests is not uncommon. I shall discuss each of these facets" of 
the interstitial position of the profession in turn, and then comment 
on some of the sociological implications of the situation. 

It seems best to start with problems of the relation to the cultural 
tradition of the law. First it may be noted that apart from the 
difficulties of enforcement of legal rules, for which of course the 
legal profession as such is not primarily responsible, there is a 
critically important problem of "interpretation" in at least a double 
sense. The first of these concerns primarily the relation to the client 
and will be commented upon further below. It is the "application" 
to the specific practical situations faced by clients. Here the prob- 
lem of the client is by no means simply his motivation to conform 
with or evade the law, but to ktiow what his rights and obligations 
are. And, the very fact that so often he must come to a lawyer with 
his questions indicates that, in spite of the lawyer's superior knowl- 
edge, even for him this interpretation presents what are very often 
far from easy questions. Even in so far as the final resolution rests 
either with legislatures or with judges, the importance of the work 
of members of the legal profession in formulating the questions and 
marshalling the evidence on which final decisions are made should 
not be underestimated. 

The second is the set of questions involved in the internal con- 
sistency and hence stability, in the sense which includes orderly 
change, of the legal tradition itself. The severity and difficulty of 

2 In sociological terms the role of lawyer is defined, along with that of other 
professional roles, as "collectivity-oriented" not, like that of the business man, 
as "self-oriented." Cf. Parsons, The Social System, Chap. II for definition of 
these terms. 


the problems of conflicts between mutually contradictory statutes 
is well known to lawyers. Anglo-American law of course relies 
heavily on the processes of judicial decision and through these the 
accumulation of precedents. But tlie problem of maintaining the 
internal consistency of the precedent system even to a tolerable 
degree is a very formidable one. Furthermore there must be orien- 
tation to the authority of the basic constitutional documents, which 
naturally means continual reinterpretation of them, and to the posi- 
tive acts of legislation which are continually being produced. 

The problems faced by our legal profession in this respect may 
be compared with two other types of situations. One is the analogy 
to the professions concerned with the application of scientific 
knowledge, such as engineering and medicine. In these cases it is 
a sociologically central fact that the available knowledge is far from 
adequate to cover the practical needs. Nevertheless established 
scientific knowledge does constitute a highly stable point of refer- 
ence. Hence the "authority" of the relevant professional groups for 
interpretations can always be referred to such established knowl- 
edge. This is, moreover, a basis of reference which is steadily grow- 
ing in stability. The other type of case is very different, namely that 
in which there is a fountain-head of authority beyond which there 
is no appeal. The Roman Catholic Church is perhaps the most con- 
spicuous large-scale example, though the Soviet Communist Party 
is in certain respects similar. The essential point is that the "correct 
doctrine" is assumed not to be dependent on any human will, but 
to be infallibly specific and definite, with a clearly authorized 
human agency for its implementation. 

As compared with both of these our secular law is considerably 
looser in its points of reference. The Constitution is considerably 
less clear-cut than tlie authoritative canons of the church and even 
the Supreme Court is less "canonical" than is the papacy. The legal 
profession then has to maintain diflBcult balances in a tradition 
which is in itself exceedingly complex, which is applied to very 
complex and changing conditions, subject to severe pressures from 
interest groups, authoritatively based only on very general and 
partly ambiguous documents, and subject to change within con- 
siderable limits by the more or less arbitrary and unpredictable 
"will of the people." 

We know from analysis of a great many such situations that re- 
sponsibility for such functions under conditions where no clearly 


"right" answers can be attained within considerable hmits, is a 
source of strain. We also know that in relation to such strains tend- 
encies to various types of "deviant" behavior are likely to develop. 
One of these is probably yielding to expediency, above all 
through financial temptations and pressures from clients. Ideological 
trends in our society are such that there is almost certainly serious 
exaggeration in the views of many circles about lawyers on this 
point, but that the tendency to abdicate responsibilities in the serv- 
ice of financial "self-interest" or merely "peace" in the face of 
severe pressure, is there, can scarcely be doubted. 

A second type of deviance consists in exaggerated legal "for- 
malism" tlie tendency to insist on what is conceived to be the "let- 
ter" of the law without due regard to a "reasonable" balance of 
considerations. Legal "technicalities" may of course be, and often 
are, invoked as tactical weapons in various types of procedures, a 
point which will be discussed briefly below, but apart from their 
instiumental use, undoubtedly there is a tendency is many legal 
quarters to exaggerate the importance of being formally "correct" 
down to the last detail. In psychological terms, the legal profession 
probably has at least its share, if not more of "compulsive personal- 
ities" as compared with other occupations. The essential present 
point is that this tendency in the profession is not simply a result of 
certain types of people "happening" to be lawyers, but grows out 
of the situation in which lawyers as a group are placed. 

The third type of deviant tendency prominent in the law may be 
said to be the "sentimental" exaggeration of the substantive claims 
of clients or other "interests" represented by the lawyer. Thus cor- 
poration lawyers may often become more lyrical about the rights of 
"property" than the main tradition of the law warrants, or labor 
lawyers about "human rights" and the like. Or, to take another 
example, the lawyer who identifies with an injured client to the 
extent of fighting very hard to get for him what, on cooler consid- 
eration look like highly excessive damages, is guilty of "sentimen- 
tality" in this sense.^ 

3 In more technically sociological terms, I may point out that this classification 
of typical deviances of lawyers corresponds closely to a more general classi- 
fication. Yielding to "expediency" seems to be the most relevant version of 
the "alienative" tendency in this case. ("Active alienation" the "rebellious" 
attitude toward law, is hardly compatible with the professional role itself, 
though it operates in particular contexts.) "Formalism" may in a broad way be 
identified with "passive compulsive conformism" while "sentimentality" seems 
to fit the category of "active compulsive conformism." For the general classi- 
fication see Parsons, The Social System, Chap. VII. 


Problems of the relation of the profession to the state need rela- 
tively little comment, since several points have been noted above. 
But first I may note again that some lawyers are public officials and 
some public offices are reserved exclusively for lawyers, notably 
the judiciary. Furthermore every lawyer, by virtue of his admission 
to the bar becomes in a limited and qualified sense a public official, 
as an "officer of the court." The profession is thus an entity which as 
it were penetrates the boundary between public and private capa- 
cities and responsibilities. Its members act in both capacities and 
the profession has major anchorages in both. 

This position, though of course it impinges differently on differ- 
ent sectors of the profession, subjects the profession in its inde- 
pendent aspect, to a whole series of strains in its relations to polit- 
ical authority. In the first place, as noted, the private attorney in 
advising clients and the judge in deciding cases are both placed in 
a difficult if not sometimes impossible position in saying what in 
fact the law is. Partly this is the problem of interpretation of vague 
or ambiguous phraseology in the authoritative documents. Partly it 
is a matter of the fact that legislatures sometimes flatly contradict 
themselves so that either there must be legislative correction, which 
is so cumbersome a process as to be impossible within any reason- 
able length of time or some kind of "extralegal" compromise. 
Finally, there may be questions of sheer impracticality. The law 
taken literally sometimes requires the citizen to do what is either 
impossible for him, or if possible, only with what in terms of public 
sentiment is undue hardship. 

What is true in relation to legislation, is, with differences, also 
true with reference to the executive organs of government. These 
are charged with the responsibility of implementing the decisions 
of legislatures. But they are faced with the same difficulties of in- 
terpretation as are the courts and lawyers. They have corporate in- 
terests which predispose them to one rather than another interpre- 
tation. This may lead to a clash of interests with private persons in 
the public (individual or corporate) or as between different organs 
of government. 

Just as from a certain point of view the law-making process itself 
is a mechanism for settling conflicts in the society and establishing 
rules, so then the legal profession is a kind of "secondary" line of 
defense against the disruptive consequences of conflict. It acts as a 
buffer between the legislature, the executive organ and the gen- 


eral public, helping to iron out inconsistencies and unrealism in 
the law, to protect against special interests of the executive branch 
of government, or particular units of it and the like. In performing 
this mediating function the most important point to note is the 
independent responsible position of the profession. It is not exclu- 
sively an organ either of the state or of the private interests of pri- 
vate clients. This independent position rests on the institutional- 
ization of its own tradition, on the balance of interests, and on inte- 
gration with other structures of the society which are relatively 
independent, notably the universities through the Law Schools. 

Finally a few things may be said about the relation of the legal 
profession to the public, i.e. to "private" clients. One of the most 
important facts to emphasize is the enormous range of things done 
by lawyers for clients. This appears both in the range of different 
kinds of specialties within the profession, from Judges, to tax spe- 
cialists, patent lawyers, admiralty lawyers, and many others. It also 
appears in the many different things done by particular lawyers, 
and particularly the fact that technical mastery of the law is in- 
volved in only some of them and in many situations is not the most 
important element. A few of these points may be commented upon 

The first set of considerations derives from the fact that a private 
attorney's job is to advise his client in relation to a concrete situ- 
ation. In this connection his understanding of the situations clients 
of the type he deals with get into is just as important as is his 
knowledge of the law. Furthermore, his function is not confined to 
understanding these situations and the relation of the law to them, 
but in various ways involves actively taking a hand in them. Here 
above all what may be called "knowhow" about the relevant situ- 
ations, such as how to go about defining a problem or what the 
chances of reaching a settlement are become most important. Finally 
lawyers of course are called upon to carry out a great deal of nego- 
tiation on behalf of their clients, sometimes with the attorneys rep- 
resenting the other side, sometimes directly with private persons. 
Knowledge of the law is, in such situations, often an essential tool 
of successful negotiation, but by itself it does not suffice to give 
the skill in handling other people which makes the good negotiator. 
These considerations are obviously related to the very large amount 
of settlement of actual or potential conflict carried out by lawyers 
without the direct involvement of public authority at all. This ranges 


all the way from forestalling a conflict of interest by giving advice 
as to how to deal with a situation in advance, or possible actively 
taking part in handling it, through "settlements out of court" with- 
out ever reaching a court, to cases brought before a court but 
settled without trial.* 

The second major context I wish to discuss briefly concerns the 
fact that the lawyer represents his client in situations which very 
frequently involve direct conflict of interest with an opponent of 
the client, a situation most highly dramatized of course when the 
case is tried in court. Here the mediating role of the profession is 
clearly evident in the fact that the attorneys for the two sides do 
not have the same personal involvement in the case that their prin- 
cipals do and can often negotiate with each other without being 
swayed by their emotions to the same degree. At least they are 
"brother" lawyers bound by the solidarity of their profession, and 
not infrequently they know each other well, have no personal 
antagonism, and are accustomed to working together. 

In the same connection the procedural aspect of the law and the 
lawyer's mastery of it, show their importance. For adherence to 
procedure narrows and defines the issues, and makes the parties 
and public opinion more ready to accept a settlement when it is 
arrived at. Procedure, however, has another importance in mitigat- 
ing the strain on the lawyer. The fact that the case can be tried by 
a standard procedure, relieves him of some pressure of commit- 
ment to the case of his client. He can feel that, if he "does his best" 
then having assured the client's case a fair trial, he is relieved of 
responsibility for an unfavorable verdict if it comes. He may even 
take a case with considerable reservations about its soundness, 
counting on procedurable fairness to protect the interests of the 
opponent. The very fact that the lawyer is given a position of inde- 
pendent, though partly informal and unofficial responsibility, both 
for the interests of his client and for those of "the law" means that 
tliere must be mechanisms which mitigate the pressure to which he 
is subject in this position. The procedural emphasis of our legal 
system seems to fit in this context. 

Mention should also be made here of another aspect of the law- 
yer's independent responsibility, namely the protection of the con- 

^ In this connection Judge Barnes' statement ( in the paper following this one ) 
was interesting that in his long experience on the bench about six cases brought 
to the court were settled without trial for every one actually brought to trial. 


fidential nature of his relation to his dient. He is, in a certain sense, 
in a position to protect his cHent against himself, in that if the latter 
says intemperate or unwise things in conference with his attorney 
he can be assured they will go no farther. But similarly the attorney 
himself is protected in that he is enabled to participate in private 
affairs without himself becoming too deeply involved, either in 
judgment of the legality of the client's position, or in responsibilities 
to his client going too far beyond their professional relationship. 

The above discussion has cited facts which are familiar to every 
lawyer and are in no sense new to him. I have done so, however, 
in order to establish that the legal profession has a place in our 
social structure, and performs functions on its behalf, of which 
probably the average lawyer himself is only partly aware. He does 
his job, on the bench, on behalf of his client etc. according to his 
lights and with justification feels that this job is also important to 
the society. The essential point to be made in conclusion is to show 
in certain ways how it is that by and large, with due allowance for 
the incompetence and chicanery found to some extent in every 
large group, these functions are useful to society. 

With the appropriate qualifications for specific features of its 
role and situation, the legal profession shares certain fundamental 
characteristics with the other professions. Its members are trained 
in and integrated with, a distinctive part of our cultural tradition, 
having a fiduciary responsibility for its maintenance, development 
and implementation. They are expected to provide a "service" to 
the public within limits without regard to immediate self-interest. 
The lawyer has a position of independent responsibility so that he 
is neither a servant only of the client though he represents his in- 
terest, nor of any other group, in the lawyer's case, of public au- 

Above all the member of a profession stands between two major 
aspects of our social structure; in the case of the law between pubhc 
authority and its norms, and the private individual or group whose 
conduct or intentions may or may not be in accord with the law. In 
the case of the physician it is between the world of sickness and of 
health; he himself is defined as not sick, but he participates more 
intimately with the sick than any other well person. In the case of 
the teacher it is between the world of childhood, or, on advanced 
levels, of relative "untrainedness" and the full status of being 


The professions in this sense may, sociologically, be regarded as 
what we call "mechanisms of social control." They either, like the 
teaching profession, help to "socialize" the young, to bring them 
into accord with the expectations of full membership in the society, 
or they bring them back into accord when they have deviated, like 
the medical profession.^ The legal profession may be presumed to 
do this but also two other things, first to forestall deviance by advis- 
ing the client in ways which will keep him better in line, and also 
"cooling him off" in many cases and, second, if it comes to a serious 
case, implementing the procedure by which a socially sanctioned 
decision about the status of the client is arrived at, in the dramatic 
cases of the criminal law, the determination of whether he is inno- 
cent or guilty of a crime. 

Except for the formal determination of innocence or guilt which 
has certain special features, analysis has shown that effective per- 
formance of these functions depends on whether the role in which 
they are performed meets certain broad sociological conditions. 
These have been worked out most clearly in connection with the 
psychotherapeutic functions of the medical profession. It can how- 
ever, be shown that they are of considerably more general signif- 
icance, applying to "socialization" both in family and in school, to 
some aspects of religious ritual, and to various other situations. In 
conclusion I may briefly outline these conditions and indicate how 
they apply to the legal case.^ 

In the first place, in situations of strain, there seems to be re- 
quired scope for a certain permissiveness for expression of attitudes 
and sentiments which, in ordinary circumstances, would not be 
acceptable. If this permissiveness is to operate effectively it must 
be associated with relief from anxiety. In order to be capable, psy- 
chologically, of "getting things off his chest" a person must be 
assured tliat, within certain limits, otherwise ordinary or possible 
sanctions will not operate. In general this implies a protected situ- 
ation. The confidential character of the lawyer's relation to his 
client provides just such a situation. The client can talk freely, to 
an understanding and knowledgable ear, without fear of immediate 
repercussions. What is relayed beyond this confidential relationship 
is selected through the screen of the lawyer's judgment. 

^ Illness, in this context can be defined as a fonn of deviant behavior. Cf. 
Parsons, TJie Social System. Chap. X. 

*» A more extensive discussion of these conditions will be found in Parsons, 
The Social System, Chaps. VII and X. 


To some extent the same kind of thing occurs in other phases of 
the legal process, notably the hearing by judges of some evidence 
in chambers. It could be a feature of the process of trial itself, and 
under the most favorable circumstances probably is. This tendency 
is, however, counteracted by the publicity of trials, which has de- 
veloped rather special features in this country on account of certain 
of the characteristics of our press. 

In the case of the law, the situations of strain with which it deals 
focus to a large extent on conflicts. One of the very important 
aspects of legal procedure is to provide mechanisms for "cooling 
ofiF" of the passions aroused in such situations. Undoubtedly the 
private attorney does a great deal of this. Like the physician, he 
helps his client to "face reality," to confine his claims to what he 
has a real chance of making "stand up" in court or in direct nego- 
tiation, and to realize and emotionally to accept the fact that the 
other fellow may have a case too. The element of delay in bringing 
things to a head may, though doubtless often carried too far be- 
cause of crowding of court calendars and the like, have a similar 
function. The important thing here is that a person under strain 
should have some opportunity for "tension release" which is 
treated as institutionally legitimate. 

Secondly, it is a feature of the types of situation I am thinking of, 
that there is some assurance of "support" or "acceptance" within 
broader limits than would otherwise be the case. The physician in 
one sense tends to be particularly "tolerant" of human beings; he 
does not judge them morally, but tries to "help" them as best he 
can. Certain features of legal practice also seem to fit into this pat- 
tern. Though there are expectations that the attorney will not con- 
sciously attempt to "get off" a person he knows to be guilty of a 
crime, there is on the other hand the presumption that the client is 
entitled to a "fair trial" not only in the formal sense, but a hearing 
from his attorney, and any help within the bounds of reason and 
professional ethics. The lawyer is not easily shocked in the way the 
general public may be; he is familiar with the complexities of hu- 
man living and ready to "give a break" to the person who has be- 
come involved in a difiicult situation. Perhaps the presumption of 
innocence, not only as a canon of formal trial procedure, but as a 
deepseated trend of the ethos of the profession, is the primary focus 
of this feature of the institution of the law. It is strikingly sym- 
bolized by the fact that, like the medical profession, payment for 


the services of lawyers is not on an ordinary "commercial" basis, 
but on a "sliding scale" with a presumption that the lawyer will be 
willing to help his client relatively independently of whether it is 
financially worth his while. 

But while tlie lawyer tends to be both permissive and supportive 
in his relations with his clients, there is another side to the picture. 
He is after all schooled in the great tradition of the law. As a mem- 
ber of a great profession he accepts responsibility for its integrity, 
and his whole position in society focuses that responsibility upon 
him. His function in relation to clients is by no means only to "give 
them what they want" but often to resist their pressures and get 
them to realize some of the hard facts of their situations, not only 
with reference to what they can, even with clever legal help, expect 
to "get away with" but with reference to what the law will permit 
them to do. In this sense then, the lawyer stands as a kind of buffer 
between the illegitimate desires of his clients and the social interest. 
Here he "represents" the law rather than the client. His tendency 
under certain circumstances to give way to the pressures of client 
interest is one way in which, as noted above, he can be "deviant." 
But in this connection he can retreat into the formalism of tlie law 
as a way of resisting these pressures. From the present point of view 
the significant point is that both these two functions are combined 
in a particular way in the same agency. 

What I have referred to above as permissiveness and support are 
relatively "unconditional" in that the lawyer will not betray his 
client's confidence, or refuse to give him the presumption of inno- 
cence while he is hearing his story. But there is another class of his 
services which are to be treated as conditional, namely the specific 
positive services he is willing to provide, especially those performed 
in public where the lawyer's own reputation may be involved. The 
negative aspect of this has just been discussed, the things which the 
lawyer will refuse to do for his client, but there is also a positive 
aspect. His legal competence, his knowledge of situations and of 
people, his skill in negotiation, etc., are at the service of his client 
but, even after he has taken on the case, not wholly on the client's 
terms, but to an important degree on his own terms. From a socio- 
logical point of view, that is to say, he is "manipulating rewards" 
in such a way as to have an important effect in influencing the be- 
havior of the client. This influence operates, not only through what 
the client "gets" in the sense of achieving his original goals for 


which he consulted a lawyer, but through the impact on the client 
of the attitude of the lawyer, his expressed or implied approval of 
this as so legitimate that a lawyer is willing to help him get it, 
whereas other elements of the client's goals are disapproved and 
help in getting them is refused. 

The upshot of these commonplace considerations is that the 
sociologist must regard the activities of the legal profession as one 
of the very important mechanisms by which a relative balance of 
stability is maintained in a dynamic and rather precariously bal- 
anced society. The most significant thing is that a pattern of anal- 
ysis, worked out in an entirely different context, the psychothera- 
peutic aspect of the role of the physician, turns out to be applicable 
in this field as well. This is something of which I myself was not 
aware until I attempted to put together some thoughts about the 
legal profession for this occasion. 


A Revised Analytical Approach 
to the Theory of 
Social Stratification* 

IT HAS COME to be rather widely recognized in the sociological field 
that social stratification is a generalized aspect of the structure of 
all social systems, and that the system of stratification is intimately 
hnked to the level and type of integration of the system as a system. 
The major point of reference both for the judgment of the gen- 
erality of the importance of stratification, and for its analysis as a 
phenomenon, is to be found in the nature of the frame of reference in 
terms of which we analyze social action. We conceive action to be ori- 
ented to the attainment of goals, and hence to involve selective pro- 
cesses relative to goals. Seen in their relations to goals, then, all the 
components of systems of action and of the situations in which action 
takes place, are subject to the process of evaluation, as desirable or 
undesirable, as useful or useless, as gratifying or noxious. Evaluation 
in turn has, when it operates in the setting of social systems of 

"This paper was written especially for Class, Status and Power: A Reader in 
Social Stratification, Bendix & Lipset, Eds. It may be regarded as a revision of 
the author's earlier paper, "An Analytical Approach to the Theory of Social 
Stratification," first published in the American Journal of Sociology, May 1940, 
and reprinted in the Essays, both the first edition (Chapter VII) and the 
present one (Chapter IV). The Editors of the stratification volume originally 
proposed reprinting of this older paper in it. However, so much work had 
intervened in the meantime, both in tlie field of general theory and more 
specifically on social stratification, tliat it seemed much better to attempt a 
new statement of a general approach to the field. The more recent phases 
of the work in general tlieory on which the present paper relies most heavily 
will be found discussed in three publications in which the author has had a 
major part: Parsons and Shils, Editors, Toward a General Theory of Action 
(Harvard University Press, 1951); Parsons, The Social System (Free Press, 
1951); and Parsons, Bales, and Shils, Working Papers in the Theory of Action 
(Free Press, 1953). In audition Bales' Interaction Process Analysis (Addison- 
Wesley Press, 1950) has played a very important part in the background. 

On the empirical side the author has, over a considerable period, been en- 
gaged in a study of social mobility among high school boys in collaboration 
with Samuel A. Stouffer, Florence Kluckhohn, and a research staff. Though 
results of this study are not yet ready for publication, the work on it has ex- 


action, two fundamental implications. First the units of systems, 
whetlier they be elementary unit acts or roles, collectivities, or 
personalities, must in the nature of the case be subject to evalu- 
ation. To say that all acts w^ere valued equally, that it did not 
"matter" what a person did or how he did it, would simply be to 
say that the category of evaluation was irrelevant to the analysis of 
action. But given the process of evaluation, the probability is that 
it will serve to differentiate entities in a rank order of some kind. 
Exactly equal evaluation of two or more entities may of course 
occur, but it is a special case of evaluative judgment, not a demon- 
stration of its irrelevance. Just how great the differentiations may 
be, how permanent or generalized they are, and by what criteria 
they are made is of course the focus of a whole series of analytical 
and empirical problems, but that they should he imputed to actors 
in a system is inherent in the frame of reference we employ for 
the analysis of social interaction,^ 

erted a major influence on my theoretical thinking about the general field. In 
addition, in collaboration with Dr. Bales and two assistants, an attempt is 
being made to link together the study of stratification in the large-scale society 
and in small groups, using in a broad way tlie conceptual scheme outlined in 
this paper. Both projects have been carried out under the auspices of the Har- 
vard Laboratory of Social Relations. Besides the general funds of the Labora- 
tory, the study of mobility has received financial support in the first instance 
from the Russell Sage Foundation, but also from the Rockefeller Foundation 
and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I would like herewith to ex- 
press gratitude to all these agencies for their assistance. 

The paper is, therefore, by no means a product of individual work, but is 
essentially collaborative in nature. In the work in general theory I am parti- 
cularly indebted to my collaborators, Shils and Bales, and to the co-authors of 
Toward a General Theory of Action. With reference to the field of stratification 
there is a special debt to Samuel Stouffer and Florence Kluc